State Of The Union Week 4 – Super Rugby AU & Phil Kearns Return

Phil Kearns smiling next to Andrew Mehrtens Giving the Finger
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Cover Art

Super Rugby AU finally kicked off over the weekend. I was legitimately so excited to watch the Brumbies play it was difficult for me to get to sleep on Friday night. And, my suspicions have been confirmed. The Brumbies are the team to beat and no argument you have will convince me otherwise.

Unfortunately, the return of Super Rugby AU also marks the return of the monotonous and often inaccurate commentary provided by Phil Kearns.

Anyway, here it is the State of the Union week 4.

NSW May Have Given Up

Now I’m not talking about the Waratahs. I enjoyed some of their play from the weekend and they put up a good fight in what turned out to be a pretty close game. This was a highlight for me.

Last week NSW Rugby announced that they would be laying off basically their entire community rugby staff. It appears that the high-performance budget was quarantined and thus cuts had to come from other parts of the business.

What hasn’t been reported yet, is that NSW Rugby has also decided they’re not paying out grant money to the sub-unions. Further neglecting the grassroots. And, finally, they have decided not to waive the portion of player registration fees that goes towards… You guessed it… Grassroots rugby development.

I’m all for doing whatever we have to do for the game to survive. But the game has got into this position largely by doing exactly what NSW just did. Investing heavily at the top end and neglecting the grassroots. If we continue to polish the leaves but forget to water the roots, the tree dies. I’m not saying rugby will die in NSW but it’s going to be a tough 12 months.

We should start to see the other unions around Australia announce their staffing changes over the next few months. Let’s hope the other unions focus on watering the roots.

Phil Kearns Still Sucks at Commentating

Let me be clear. I’m not for anyone losing their job, especially given the circumstances. No matter how monotonous, unfunny and uninteresting someone is, wishing for them to lose their job is a step too far for me.

But I’ll ask you this question. If we strip away his 67 test match appearances, what qualifies Phil Kearns to commentate?

Here are some actual quotes from Phil Kearns from the weekend.

“This is why no one likes half-backs, they’re little smart-asses”. He said this when referring to Tate McDermott’s quick tap try early in the game. I mean really? On live TV? Maybe just congratulate him on some quick thinking and move on. Although he was playing against the blokes in the blue jersey’s so what did I expect?

During the Brumbies game, Phil stated that Joe Powell “is a good find for the Brumbies” and “he’s backed up some good players over the years”. Neither is technically untrue. However, Joe is hardly a “find”. He is a Canberra kid, went to Marist College, played his club footy with the Tuggeranong Vikings, and the Australian under 20s. Additionally, he did backup Tomas Cubelli during the 2016 season, but took Tomas’ job in 2017 and made his wallabies debut later that year (at 23).

Hardly a “find” he’s been a fairly high profile player for most of his junior career and has had a lot of success for a guy who’s only 26.

If you’re going to be unqualified Phil at least do your research.

Drop Goals Are Over

Sigh… Another week without any drop goals…

This Week Across The Ditch Will be a Grand Final Preview

It might only be round 5. But as I said a few weeks ago this week will be a grand final preview. And so far, both the Crusaders and Blues haven’t disappointed.

Through the first three rounds, both teams are undefeated. And, it’s become clear these two teams are head and shoulders better than the other three. The Hurricanes and Highlanders have notched up a win each, while the Chiefs are 0 from 4 and will be relishing the bye this week.

The Crusaders in my view are favoured and it would seem the bookmakers agree with me. My reasoning is three-fold:

  1. Crusaders have been pretty dominant so far. Their points differential is +39 at an average win margin of 13, with two bonus-point wins. The Chiefs came close, losing by 5 in round 3. But that might be an outlier. The Blues, on the other hand, have had an average win margin of 8.33 points. They’ve been impressive but less dominant. Having said that they do have the 2nd best player in the world on their team.
  2. Crusaders are playing at home. You may think this is a copout at number 2. But, the Crusaders have won 132 games at home for a ludicrous 82% win percentage at home. Additionally, the Blues have only ever beaten the Crusaders 11 times in 35 attempts to this point.  The odds aren’t in the Blues favour, but if they put on a complete performance anything could happen. But, they do have the 2nd best player in the world on their team.
  3. Crusaders are the reigning champs. This is the cop-out point. But they’ve won 3 premierships in a row. They just find a way to get it done. Pressure doesn’t seem to phase them. For a team like the Blues who haven’t played in any meaningful games since 2003, it’s not clear how they’ll handle the pressure. But, they do have the 2nd best player in the world on their team.

Here’s a preview of what we might get to see on Saturday.

Western Force Back Where They Belong

I have two horses in this race so to speak.

I was lucky enough to have been coached by and simultaneously work with Western Force Head Coach Tim Sampson at the Tuggeranong Vikings.

As a coach, one of the best at allowing players to take ownership of their development and success, an unreal communicator and he was always incredibly well prepared. He’s the type of coach who will work with you until you find the answer. He’s not the type of coach who’ll tell you the answer before you’ve had a chance to think about it. Thus allowing the information to sink in.

As a coworker, I had an immense amount of respect for his work ethic. On a Monday morning, he would often arrive at the office before me. He’d already watched the weekends games and prepared the post-game review. And usually would be watching the game one last time to make sure he hadn’t missed anything. Or, he’d be preparing recruitment letters and liaising with the other coaches at the club to organise sessions for the week.

He became someone I looked up to and I always felt his time at the club would be limited, destined for higher honours. So, it’s no surprise to this writer he’s been given an opportunity at the professional level.

Angus Wagner is the second horse in this race.

Angus arrived at the Vikings in 2016 as a recruit for our under 20s (a.k.a colts) side. He was the loosehead in a formidable front row partnership with current All Black Tyrel Lomax.

I started working Angus towards the back end of 2016 season as he was fast rising up the ranks within the club.

By the time the 2018 season rolled around Wags (as we called him) had taken my job. And, I mean taken in every sense of the word. That m*****f***er at just 20 years old was better than me. We continued to battle it out in live scrums sessions and I would often replace him for the last 15-20 minutes of first-grade games. But to everyone watching, he was fast becoming an elite talent.

During a semi-final in 2018, he was kind enough to get injured. Opening the door for me to start (and finish) in the 2018 Grand Final. That jersey still hangs on my wall.

 

So, go well this weekend Western Force, I love seeing you back in Super Rugby.

Super Rugby Aotearoa Power Rankings

  1. Crusaders
  2. Blues
  3. Highlanders
  4. Hurricanes
  5. Chiefs

Super Rugby AU Power Rankings

  1. Brumbies
  2. Reds
  3. Rebels
  4. Force
  5. Waratahs (Purely because of Phil Kearns)
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