2012 Australian Super Rugby Team Of the Year

It's that time of year again when the Rolling Maul sorts the chaff from the wheat to come up with its team of those Australian Super Rugby players who contributed least to their team's plight. Given the dour plight of pretty much all the Australian teams this year it took a massive effort to be noticed as being especially incompetent, injured or absent. Yet these players managed it:

PROPS
Matt Dunning (retired - maybe playing in the French lower divisions or something)
Dunning has been a feature of this team of the year since its inception so it's no surprise that retirement should limit his appearance. While he's been included previously for being injured, out of form or dropped, it was always sheer weight (literally) of personality that made him a blog and fan favourite. In these days of mass produced, media polished, production line automotons, Dunning is sorely missed.

Jerry Yanuyanutawa (Brumbies)
Yanuyanutawa spent years on the Brumbies books while plying his trade at Sydney Uni without ever getting a match. 2010 saw him finally get a few matches and by 2011 he even started a few despite a broken left leg, dislocated left ankle and compound fractures in both legs during the season. In 2012 Fiji came begging beckoning and he made his international debut. But that was it. Unable to hold his spot with Fiji, he's also now an international player so would have to qualify for the Brumbies as an international marquee player if they want him back. They don't.

HOOKER
Josh Mann-Rea (Waratahs)
It's hard to decide whether Mann-Rea will look back on his career as potential wasted or limited abilities maximised. He must have had great hopes in 2006 when he played 5 non Super-Rugby games for the Waratahs but then that was it for 6 years. But dutiful plying of his trade with Manly and then a succession of injuries to Waratahs hookers saw Mann-Rea drafted in as the team's fifth choice rake. The now 31 year-old must have been feeling butterflies when he took his place on the bench this season against the Stormers. Then finally with 2 minutes to go he was called onto the field. And then his career ended. Totafu Polata-Nau was back the following week and Mann-Rea made the team sheet one more time but never the team.

LOCKS
Adam Byrnes (Rebels)
Speaking of internationals, Adam Byrnes' stint with Russia saw him qualify as an international marquee signing with the Rebels (one of 10 admittedly). With World Cup experience under his belt he took to the field in 2012 with great hopes but as always just let his fists do the talking. Now admittedly there is a place for hard men on the Rugby field, but they need some actual ball-handling skills to back them up and that's where Byrnes has always struggled. Against the Waratahs he came up against the equally hard and limited Tom Carter. Carter claimed he was eye-gouged, Byrnes got 10 weeks, then he was cleared on appeal after two weeks, but the sledging continued off the field (via Twitter) so Byrnes was fined $7,500 for bringing the game into disrepute. He also got injured during his break and wasn't to be seen again. He also hasn't been re-signed for 2013. There's always Russia!

Dan Vickerman (Waratahs)
Vickerman's 2012 Super rugby season can be summed up in no words because he never actually made it onto the field. One of the major signings and a key plank in coach Michael Foley's plans, Vickerman needed a shoulder operation after an ill-fated World Cup campaign and then a stress fracture in his leg ended the season completely and probably his career despite some false hopes no doubt implanted by over-eager sport psychologists.

FLANKERS
Michael Lipman (Rebels)
Revered for his tenacity and his sense of humour (OK, so it varies between dry and warped), the former England international was already on borrowed time after having it suggested by doctors two years ago he retire after repeated headknocks. The bloke clearly has a screw loose, so he kept on playing and signed on with the Rebels for even more punishment. 2011 was a good year for Lipman but the headknocks kept coming and by 2012 he admitted the headaches wouldn't go away and he retired mid-season.

Rocky Elsom (Waratahs)
The former Wallabies skipper had already been dumped by Robbie Deans when the Waratahs picked up what they thought was a golden pedigree at a bargain price. But he was pretty much hamstrung when he arrived and his nominal captaincy was given bizarrely first to Daniel Halangahu and then Benn Robinson. Elsom finally made it to the field for three matches where he never played the full 80 before damging his shoulder and ultimately his prospects of ever playing in Australia again - he's off to Europe and then Japan.

NUMBER 8
Radike Samo (Reds)
Samo's 2012 season actually has a golden ending so probably shouldn't qualify for this team of the year, but Radike Samo's season goal was to make the Reds bench at the back end of a season where he spent most of it on the sidelines after a shoulder injury in the pre-season. He did that and got a handful of games but then was the last mean standing when every other number 8 and potential number 8 in the country (Palu, McCalman, Horwill, Auelua...) fell over for one reason or another and he ended up with a Wallabies call-up.

HALFBACK
Sarel Pretorious (Waratahs)
It was a coup for the Waratahs to score Super Rugby's top tryscorer from 2011 from the Cheetahs. With Luke Burgess moving on the Tahs were looking for a quick fix. It didn't work out as planned though. Pretorious and Brendan McKibbin shared duties for most of the season without ever securing the spot as their own and by the end of the season unknown former Aucklander Grayson Hart was called up from Southern Districts to start the last couple of matches and Pretorious couldn't even make the bench.

FIVE-EIGHTH
Peter Hewat (Brumbies - sort of)
Once was a Waratahs and once was a winger, Hewat was the surprise call-up as a back-up five-eighth when Christian Lealiafano injured himself big time mid-season. Hewat had somehow converted himself into a five-eighth while playing in Europe and Japan and apparently with considerable success. It all came to nought, contractual arrangements with Hewat's Japanese club saw to that and truth be known Zack Holmes who ultimately took Lealiafano's spot had some blinders. It does make one wonder though if all the Tahs historic problems at five-eighth could have been solved if...

CENTRES
James O'Connor (Rebels)
Rebels fans probably had mixed feelings when their star signing a) mentioned it was good for his brand; and b) promptly got injured, then played a couple of games, then had Berrick Barnes kick him in the liver, then bust a hamstring in his comeback match. All up he did bugger all on the field although he did get a new and celebrated hairstyle which was probably good for the brand (and hairspray sales) but did nothing for the Rebel's woeful season.

Tom Carter (Waratahs)
What more could this blog possibly say about Tom Carter that hasn't already been said, including by this blog? Part cult figure, part human wrecking ball and part amusement parlour, if Tah Man was allowed to actually play Rugby on the field he would be Tom Carter. So important and popular (in both a positive and negative sense of the word) is this man that this blog based a ratings system on him. Alas on the field Carter's fortunes were mixed at best. His absence in the starting line up was missed only in the sense that once he started matches the team still mostly lost but lost in a more courageous manner and when he went back to the bench they kept on losing. And there he stayed. Word is he'll retire now, and the Waratahs bench will never be the same.

WINGERS
Rod Davies (Reds)
2011's winger of the year and hat-trick try scorer in that year's final, Rod Davies was set for even more glory in 2012. With Drew Mitchell and Lachlan Turner out for nearly all the season, a Wallabies spot was also on the cards. But fate had other ideas, and in April Davies did a knee ligament requiring surgery. No reports on when he'll be back but he's already missed this year's international season.

Jordan Ropana / Tyrone Lefau (Force)
To quote the SMH: "The Super Rugby season of Western Force recruit Jordan Rapana is over before it even started after the former NRL speedster suffered a serious shoulder injury at training. Rapana was forced to undergo a full shoulder reconstruction after injuring the joint during tackling drills." Meanwhile, to quote the Western Force's website: "Lefau arrived just after the start of the 2012 season following a spate of injuries to the club's backs. The hard working utility back integrated quickly into the squad and was on the verge of selection when he suffered a hamstring injury playing for the 'A' programme." Guess it just wasn't the Force's year in the backs.

FULLBACK

Cameron Shepard (Force)
Speaking of which, it wouldn't be a Rolling Maul team of the year without Cameron Shepard for the simple reason that for the last few years Shepard has spent more time off the field than on it. He may be the team's highest point and try scorer but in 2012 he played only two games after recovering from a wrist injury to get injured again (knee) and retire. Indeed having started as a foundation player with the Force, Shepard played only 80 games for them in 7 years, less than half the number of matches played by fellow foundation player Nathan Sharpe.

See also
2011 Australian Super Rugby Team of the Year
2010 Australian Super 14 Team of the Year
2009 Australian Super 14 Team of the Year
2008 Australian Super 14 Team of the Year

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