Posts filed under ‘Rugby Union’
It will be the battle of the potential wooden spooners in Super Rugby on Saturday night at NIB Stadium when the Emirates Western Force take on the Highlanders from New Zealand. The Highlanders have had a horror season and will be looking for a much needed win as they make their way home after their trip to the Republic. The Force will be looking for a performance that lasts 80 minutes to show their loyal supporters they can deliver a win.
The Force have had some impressive performances with wins over the Crusaders and the Reds and going down to the reigning Champions the Chiefs by a point, but too often they have thrown games away through their own ill discipline, or not treasuring possession. Last week was a case in point, leading at half time they gave away two needless penalties after the re-start and fell behind to the Sharks, and then the backs continually kicked away possession that the forwards had worked hard to win.
It has been a frustrating season for Force fans as the team shows glimpses of what is possible, many claim that the team lacks consistency. Others claim they lack concentration for the full 80 minutes. The truth lies somewhere in between.
The Force have three games left in this year’s Super Rugby season and all the games are at home. It is vital that they manage to string some wins together in order to placate their corporate sponsors and their loyal fans. What is worrying are rumours that Emirates will no longer continue their naming rights sponsorship, as well as another key sponsor withdrawing; however that we believe is because of a change of ownership in the company and nothing to do with the Force’s form. Some sponsors are already stating that they are finding it increasingly difficult to fill their boxes on match days, the reason being the Perth public tend to only want to watch winning sides. This is clear in all codes of football as well as other sports.
So how far away are the Force from turning that corner? If one looks at their results overall it would appear not that far. Apart from the 41-7 thrashing from the Brumbies no other team has run over the top of the side. If we take their two wins out of the equation, they have played eleven other games. Out of those eleven games they have lost six, more than half of those games by seven points or less. That is one converted try. Yes, it is still a loss, but the margin of the loss would tend to indicate they are not too far away from turning these losses into victories. They probably require a few new recruits in the off season to tip these games in their favour, in particular a couple of backs who are capable of turning a game, they do not need to be big name players, just players capable of breaking the line on a regular basis.
For the last three games though, they must learn to treasure possession, be patient, and limit where they infringe on the park. When Jake White took over the Springboks he looked at the number of kickable penalties the side conceded in a game, and over the ensuing years worked on reducing this. He succeeded and the result was the Springboks winning their second World Cup. Managing that discipline in the heat of battle can have a dramatic effect on a teams performances.
The Force are not far from victory, but the game against the Highlanders is a crucial game, and one that they must win.
Despite tough economic times some people know no end to their generosity.
When we were searching for sponsors for our Super Rugby coverage of the Emirates Western Force’s Australian conference matches on the station, one individual who wished to remain anonymous bought the air time and donated it to the Children’s Leukaemia and Cancer Research Foundation.
The goal is for us to raise as much money as we can for this extremely worthwhile charity. The patron of the Charity former Australian cricketer Justin Langer kindly gave up his time to record the message asking for donations.
Progress has been steady but we are asking as many people as possible to help support this charity drive. It is a great cause and was a wonderful gesture from our very kind sponsor. $10 will help, and if you can’t afford that please share this link with as many people as possible.
New Australian Rugby Union boss Bill Pulver was quoted last week as saying he was surprised to hear Waratahs fans booing their team. He believed this was something that was alien to Australian sport, fans booing the team they support when they under perform.
“They’re demanding not only success, but they demand a style of play which delivers an entertainment package, if you like, that is competitive with what they can get elsewhere.” Pulver was quoted as saying.
He is absolutely correct in his assessment. Times have changed. It used to be great to stand at the bar with a player from your top local sporting team and having too many beers with them and then wobbling off home, with them in an equally wobbly state. With Rugby Union moving into the professional era all of that changed, as it had as salaries rose in other sporting codes. Fans no longer wanted to see the players they paid to watch, their heroes, having a beer. They expect them to be clean living and in peak condition when they run out on the pitch, if they are to deserve the wages they now demand.
Rugby Union in Australia has a far better pricing policy than many of the other sporting codes in Australia, but once again the more you ask your fans to pay to support their team, the louder their voice will be when that team under performs. Which seems entirely fair, but few administrators seem to realise this, as they bury their heads in the accounts and search desperately to not only attract the best players but be competitive and turn a profit. The fans are the lifeblood of every club and when they have bought their ticket they feel they have invested in that club, and if the team does not achieve what it should, understandably want heir voice to be heard.
Pulver seems to understand this. He went on to say “you need a successful team to generate support, or you need to play a very attractive style of whatever game it is.” he said and looked at the success of the A League’s new team Western Sydney Wanderers, ”The Wanderers’ success in terms of fan support has come on the back of an outstanding result on the field.”
It is undoubtedly a tough task running any sporting organisation today, and in Australia with so many codes of football to choose from, it is vital that you offer entertainment at an affordable price and engage your fans. Some clubs in each code do it better than others. The next few years will see those who fail in these areas facing the biggest challenges ever. The good news for Rugby Union is the new CEO seems to understand what is needed to restore the game to the highs it enjoyed a decade ago.
Fans of Southern Hemisphere rugby often scoff at their Northern hemisphere counterparts and the lack of running rugby played. The playing conditions have a great deal to do with it on many occasions. The six nations games at the weekend were certainly not a great deal to write about. Just three tries scored and penalty goal attempts that went off the graph, however it will now all come down to the final game and there is plenty at stake.
England travel to the Millenium stadium in Wales in search of their second title in three years and their first Grand Slam since 2003 – the same year they won the World Cup – following their 18-11 victory over Italy.
A seven point victory could see the title decided on who has scored the most tries in the competition. Wales currently lead on that count 7-5. While if Wales win by a smaller margin England will be crowned Champions but will miss out on the clean sweep, just as they did two years ago in the final game in Dublin.
Added to the intrigue this time around is the fact that this is the last chance for players to stake a claim to be in Warren Gatland’s British and Irish Lions squad heading to Australia.
Opposing flankers Sam Warburton of Wales and England’s Chris Robshaw are front runners to lead the Lions so their on park decisions could determine who gets the nod from Gatland.
England are not playing good rugby at the moment something that former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio has been quoted as saying could work in their favour . “You have to say England have not been at their best but in a funny sort of way going into Cardiff next week its not the worst thing that could happen. If they had run many, many tries the build up would have been very different.”
Rest assured Wales will relish the chance to ruin England’s party. Having been well beaten by Ireland in the opening game they have done well to find themselves in this position. They ground out victory against Scotland 28-18 in a match that featured a world record 18 penalty shots at goal and another record of 13 being successful. An eight point win would see them retain the title they won last year.
Can St George slay the dragon one more time? It will undoubtedly be a game to remember.
The British and Irish Lions Tour of Australia is just around the corner and the fact that tickets sold out in 15 minutes proves what a great sporting event the Lions Tours have become. With the team only heading to Australia every 12 years the series is one that no player or fan wants to miss.
Former All Black Justin Marshall suggested a few years ago that the Southern Hemisphere nations should form a composite side every four years in between the Lions Tours and take on the Northern rugby playing nations, and idea that probably had a greater appeal to the fans than it did the administrators. It certainly would be far more interesting than some of the games in the current European Tours. In the current rugby climate one has to wonder how many Australian players would force their way into such a team, which is bound to be dominated by All Blacks and Springboks.
The idea of a team from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales going on tour as one also did not have appeal when it was first raised, but luckily for those of us around today cricketers Alfred Shaw and Arthur Shrewsbury thought otherwise. As it was these two men who conceived the idea of a tour to Australia along with England Cricket Captain A.E. Stoddart. Little did they know the impact they would have on the game. (Shaw and Shrewsbury opened a sports business under this very name manufacturing cricket balls and bats. The business was later bought by Grays of Cambridge, who also own Gray Nicholls, so their influence on sport was immense).
The Tour took place in 1888 without the backing of the Rugby Football Union, and all of the players were not to be paid so that they maintained their amateur status. Was it representative of all of the ‘Home nations?’ As it happens it was, W.H. Thomas become the first Welshman to Tour Australia and New Zealand, while Angus Stuart although he played for Cardiff was in fact from Scotland; the latter stayed on in New Zealand and played for their national team in 1893. Arthur Paul from Lancashire wa sin fact the only Irish born player in the squad and was the principal goal kicker. He wrote his name into the cricket record books when with Archie Maclaren he established the then English batting record of 424 in a first class innings against Somerset. He also played in goal for Blackburn Rovers!
Also on that first tour A.P. Penketh became the only man from the Isle of Man to ever tour with a British team for Rugby Union. Also of far greater consequence J.T. Haslam was credited with inventing the dummy pass.
The team played 16 games in Australia, where they won 14 lost none and drew two. In New Zealand they played 19 won 13 lost two and drew four. In addition to these games they played 18 exhibition games in Victoria which were played under Australian Rules, something that did not go down too well. Here they won six drew one and lost 11. No Test Matches were played and with only twenty two players on the trip the results are remarkable. Even more remarkable is the fact that Harry Eagles, a forward, played in every single Tour match; an achievement that no other touring player has ever matched.
The Rugby fraternity owe a great deal to these pioneers and it is worth remembering their feats as the Lions prepare to head down under.
Many loyal Emirates Western Force fans were shocked to watch their team go down 22-10 to Super Rugby new boys South African side the Kings in Port Elizabeth, and it was undoubtedly disappointing, as many would have tipped them to have the superior experience to win.
The Force recovered well after going behind to an opportunist try from teenager Sergeal Petersen and went in at half time with a 10-7 lead. What will be a concern is how in the second half they conceded 17 unanswered points, which resulted in the loss.
The Kings reduced the deficit through the boot of flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis with two penalty goals and then as it had against the Rebels the week before, the Force’s task was made harder when they received a yellow card. Hugh McMeniman sitting out ten minutes for a high tackle. Sergeal Petersen made the Force pay dotting down for a second try while the force were a man down.
As they did in their opening game the Force did well to starve the opposition of possession, and were rewarded with the lead. Ill discipline, however has been their undoing, three yellow cards in 160 minutes of rugby has cost them dearly. It has given their opponents in both games the momentum, and with a passionate South African crowd behind them the Kings stormed home. An impressive victory in their first Super Rugby game.
The Force will have a tough game this week at Loftus Versfeld against the Bulls, and cannot afford to concede kickable penalties or they will find Morne Steyn has kicked the game away from them. However the Bulls are beatable early in the season and a disciplined game could produce an upset.
The club could certainly do with one as they do not want to be three games and no wins after this weekend with a bye the following week. They are then on the road for their fourth game in a row before facing the Cheetahs at home in a brand new NIB stadium. A few wins will help boost the crowd numbers for that game and create a great atmosphere.
The team needs a win of that there is no doubt and it would appear that a win will give them the impetus to kick on and have a competitive season. The sooner that win the comes the better for all, but what ever happens don’t lose faith Michael Foley is building a team that can compete with the best.
Following the decision by Rugby WA CEO Vern Reid to not apply to have his contract renewed the board will be charged with finding a replacement. The same will happen at the Australian Rugby Union in coming weeks following John O’Neill’s resignation.
Finding the perfect man for the top job in any sport is virtually impossible as everyone will have an opinion on the job they have done/are doing, and will be able to find areas where they feel disgruntled.
It has always been the job of the various Boards to find the man or woman for the top job, and determine the salary package that they should receive, but should this continue to be the case?
Suggestions have been made in recent months that codes such as Rugby and Football should in fact have a short list drawn up by the Board, and a panel of interviewers brought together from all facets of the game, such as Junior development, Senior competitions, the Women’s game along with a member of the board, so that the stakeholders have more of a say in who is running their sport. Not that it happens too often in this day and age but it would ensure no jobs for the boys.
We thought that we would ask you for your opinion as to whether the Board should canvas the opinions of the stakeholders when making an appointment, or certainly before renewing an expiring contract.
It was a day for resignations yesterday with Rugby WA CEO Vern Reid announcing that he will not be seeking an extension of his contract and Head of the ARU John O’Neill stepping down from his role as Chief Executive. Neither announcement came as a great shock.
Reid received criticism from many in local Rugby, along with the board for bowing to player power when coachRichard Graham announced he was leaving at the end of the season, despite telling the coach he could see out his contract he did a backflip and Graham was shown the door halfway through the Super Rugby season. It is therefore interesting that Mr Reid will continue in the role until a replacement is found. Is this double standards? The loss of star player David Pocock was always going to leave Mr Reid in a tenuous position and hence his decision to move on may well have come at the right time. He has in the main done a good job at Rugby WA and it is sad that his time will probably be remembered for the last six months in the role. Should the new coaching staff bring the much desired results then let us not forget his part in their recruitment.
John O’Neill has been touted as one of the great Australian sports administrators, yet he has always managed to polarise people. One thing that has to be admired about Mr O’Neill is he was never afraid to front the media and tell them what he thought, unlike many other highly paid CEOs. He has had two spells at the ARU and his first was clearly more successful than his second. Taking on the role as Rugby Union turned professional he oversaw what was a Golden era of Australian Rugby and was lucky to be at the helm when the Wallabies had an extraordinary coach in Rod MacQueen and Captain in John Eales. At that time Australian rugby swept all before them, World Cup in 1999, Tri Nations, Bledisloe Cup, Mandela Cup and Tom Richards Trophy victory over the British and Irish Lions.
O’Neill also over saw the highly successful 2003 Rugby World Cup that left the ARU with a $44million windfall. O’Neill has been ambitious but his outspokenness which gave him the headlines also restricted his advancement. So he moved to Football. There he oversaw the birth of the Hyundai A League, and despite putting all of his eggs in one basket like the many who had gone before, was fortunate that the Socceroos prevailed in a penalty shoot-out to go to their first World Cup in 32 years. It was a gamble that assured him legendary status. Once again he wooed the headline hungry media but upset those above him. The timing of his departure was ideal. Australian football was once again dreaming of qualifying for World Cups and the A League was still riding the crest of a wave as a new tournament. Yet what did he establish for the grassroots level of the game, for the development of the next generation of Socceroos? Six years after his departure back to rugby those answers are becoming glaringly obvious.
O’Neill returned to Rugby Union and one of the first things he did was slam the door on the excellent and much needed Australian Rugby Championship, a competition below Super Rugby similar to the Currie Cup in South Africa and the ITM cup in New Zealand. He did however do a lot of good the second time around much of it not obvious to the public. He introduced private equity to Australia’s Super Rugby franchises. He expanded Rugby’s footprint by taking the competition into Melbourne. He has also finally fulfilled his long held ambition of gaining a place of influence at international level and not just in Australia; he is chairman of the IRB’s regulations committee and sits on the board of Rugby World Cup Ltd. Let us also not forget that he appointed Australia’s first foreign coach in Robbie Deans, no doubt hoping that Deans could weave the magic that Guus Hiddink had in football, and bring home the William Webb Ellis Cup. Unfortunately he didn’t and the pressure on the two has been mounting ever since.
As much as his departure came as no surprise,what was baffling to many is how the ARU could allow a man in such a key role to have other business commitments. Chairman of the ARU Michael Hawker stating that “John’s workload beyond Rugby has recently grown significantly, and unexpectedly, through his chairmanship of Echo Entertainment,” a Casino company. One has to question how a board, any board at national or state level, can allow a man who is paid an extremely good wage to hold other positions that mean he does not have 100% focus on doing what is essential for the sport he represents. This has to be the biggest indictment on the ARU board, and stakeholders around Australia should be asking questions as to how this was the case.
Ironically the one issue that O”Neill pushed for in his return in 2007 was a review of rugby’s governance, something that had it been done earlier may well have helped him in his tasks over the past five years. The review has now been conducted by former Labor politician Mark Arbib has conducted and he will present his findings to the ARU board on the 22nd of October, but O’Neill will not be there to reap its possible rewards.
Yesterday the Emirates Western Force announced that former Wallaby Michael Foley had been appointed to ‘head the Emirates Western Force coaching staff for the 2013 FxPro Super Rugby season.’ Many assumed that this would mean that Foley would in fact be Head Coach for next season, but it would appear that he will in fact be taking on a role as Director of Coaching and a first team coach expected to be John Mulvihill will be announced today.
Mulvihill was a popular member of staff at the Force when he headed up the Perth Spirit in the now defunct Australian Rugby Championship. He is currently coaching at the Japanese club Mitsubishi Dynaboars, and is believed to have applied for the head coach role.
In his role under John Mitchell he was responsible for the backs, and at that time the Force scored more tries than in any other season. Nowadays Emirates fly to more destinations that Force score points!
The combination looks a promising one on paper, but questions are already being asked if, like in another code of Football, Foley’s opting for a Director of Coaching role as opposed to a head coach position has been chosen to assure him more job security rather than taking on the head coach role in an underachieving side. After the past season at the Waratahs he could not afford another similar season on his resume.
Once again it would be good to hear the thinking from the people running the club, as they appear to have created an extra role in addition to the position advertised. The pedigree is definitely there, let us hope for all concerned they can produce the desired results on the paddock.
The inevitable happened at the weekend, it was announced that Emirates Western Force Captain David Pocock was leaving for the Canberra University Brumbies. This was another major body blow for Force fans and the rugby club as a whole, but one that was expected.
At the start of the season the club was rocked by the departure of key playmaker Willie Ripia, of that there was no doubt. The decision for him to leave was the right one, but the timing was not good for the club. Injury to James Stannard meant that this loss became all the more evident as the season went on, Ben Seymour showing glimpses of potential, but also inexperience, David Harvey filled the role adequately but also predictably.
The powers that be at the club had a mutual agreement with the coach Richard Graham that either party could sever their ties at the end of this season. Graham, when offered a role with the then Super Rugby Champions, the Queensland Reds opted to take up that option. A move that very few would begrudge him, as they say a dream appointment.
Rugby was always a gentleman’s game, and Graham was keen to continue to carry on until the end of the season, an offer that the board accepted, as they obviously felt that he had the professional integrity to continue to do the best job he could with the club.
A backflip soon followed, reportedly as a result of the two players on the board, Nathan Sharpe and David Pocock. This raised a very serious issue, as to why two players were actually holding board positions when employed by the club, and who actually holds the power at the Emirates Western Force.
The club have had plenty of time in which to sound out a new coach for next season, yet have failed miserably and questions now have to be asked by members fans and the rugby community at large.
It is understood that they foolishly made public that Michael Chieka was their preferred option, which in turn has meant that those who were deemed second or third choice have their noses out of joint, and are loathe to take up the position. One candidate who withdrew from the race was far from impressed with the brief dealings he had with the board, which again speaks volumes.
It would appear that there is not enough rugby know-how on the board and questions need to be raised as to whether they are up to the task of running a Super Rugby franchise. The last six months have been badly managed and have tarnished the club drastically. The club desperately needs to be answering questions as to what is going, Rugby in WA needs some transparency and some honesty or the game and ultimately the Emirates Western Force face bigger problems on the horizon, like a drop in members and sponsors withdrawing, as is already being mooted. Which with the Pirates about to land in Perth for the NRL is a very dangerous position to be in.