Ruck'n Maul: Best Of 2015
Wallabies show you can be too smart for own good
Greg Growden
August 21, 2015
Ruck'n Maul: Wallabies tried to be 'too smart'

So the Rugby Championship was won and then the Bledisloe Cup lost in bewildering circumstances. With the Rugby World Cup looming, here's our annual Best of Ruck'n Maul column.

Best player: David Pocock

Best decision: To have medical staff on the sideline to assess the condition of possible concussed players, and to end the farce that saw a clearly knocked out George Smith returning to the field during the series-deciding 2013 Wallabies-Lions Test in Sydney.

Worst decision: dead heat.

One: The dumb, dumb, dumb Wallabies' selections for the Auckland Bledisloe Cup match. Senseless and unnecessary, blowing a reasonable chance of at last winning the Bledisloe Cup. A classic example of the Wallabies team management trying to be too smart. It will require a lot before Michael Cheika and co regain the faith of the Australian supporter core.

Two: The Queensland Reds reappointing their failed coach Richard Graham for another season. They have got to be kidding. The fan backlash will be overwhelming, as the natives are restless. They want Graham gone.

Best trend of the year: New Zealand teams going for it during virtually every local Super Rugby derby, producing great football. The Kiwis deserve enormous praise for that, especially in a World Cup year - when countries usually opt for dull, safety first tactics.

The Highlanders were deserving Super Rugby champions © Getty Images

Worst trend of the year: Tedious rolling mauls from lineout wins near the opposition line. Don't the administrators get it … it's a blatant obstruction. If they allow this, they should also allow decoy runners in attack. Get it right IRB, World Rugby or whatever you are now called. Rolling mauls are boring.

The decision we are waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiti …. zzzzzz: The supposedly spiffing SANZAR broadcasting deal. We've only been waiting a year or so for it. Will Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver ever be able to big note himself about a deal which he had very little to do with? It also pales into insignificance when compared to the recently announced AFL and NRL broadcasting deals.

The best 'what's doing' quote of the year: "I felt that I did well." Quade Cooper after the Auckland Test. Come in No.10, your time is up!

The best commentary quote of the year: "That decision reminds me very much of a big, steaming heap of stuff down the end of the ground that one of the Crusaders horses left earlier on." Andrew Mehrtens. The silence of several seconds after Mehrtens' comment was also 'Gold.' And Mehrtens was right. It was a shocking refereeing decision.

The best 'only idiots coach' quote: "I will quote from Dr Danie Craven who once said: 'The more I see of people the more I love my dog'. I could never really understand the true meaning of this until I started coaching. My immediate advice to a new coach would therefore be 'get a dog'." Former Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske.

Best quicksand leap: The under-performing Greg Peters leaving as SANZAR's head to take charge of Argentina Rugby. Several Super Rugby franchises immediately rejoiced. Don't cry for us, Argentina!

Strangest reason for withdrawing from a match: Martin Castrogiovanni was forced out of the Italy-Scotland Six Nations match after a friend's dog bit him on the nose.

Phillipe Saint-Andre looks dejected at full-time, Australia v France, Allianz Stadium, Sydney, June 21, 2014
Phillipe Saint-Andre was unimpressed by his France team in their loss to Wales © Getty Images

Best sledge of a team: "International rugby is about combat, humility. Yesterday I didn't see any champions, or not many. I only want players who are ready to go to the end of the world. If anyone thinks that international rugby is too difficult, then they have my telephone number. They can call me, and I'll take someone else. We're the Father Christmas of international rugby, and that's what I told the players." France coach Philippe Saint-Andre - about his team - after losing to Wales.

A good, honest quote: "It's make no sense, it's farcical," Western Force coach Michael Foley on the Super Rugby draw. Like so much to do with a dithering SANZAR organisation, the 2015 Super Rugby draw was ridiculous. And it will get even worse with more teams being added next year.

A handy newspaper quote: "(Will) Skelton turned into a cross between Dennis the Menace, Steven Seagal and Andre the Giant." New Zealand Herald columnist Chris Rattue, who upset Quade Cooper late in the season, on Will Skelton's frenetic performance for the Waratahs against the Crusaders.

Best coaching motivational quote: "It's easy. I just cocked a 9mm pistol in the change room." New Cheetahs coach Franco Smith.

Best Days of Our Lives saga: Richard Graham and the dreadful Reds. How Graham is still Reds coach is beyond comprehension.

Ireland 'must build on Six Nations success'

Dill of the Year: The dinosaur of an official who sadly holds a high position at the NSW Rugby Union who astounded onlookers when he said: "Don't talk to the press. They're not our friends. They're our enemies." And you wonder why rugby only gets a scanty run in local newspapers. What a clown! Couldn't run the BBQ at the Dapto Dogs.

Most dangerous move: Queensland Rugby's godfather John Connolly being brought in to help the Reds. Oh no. What are you doing?

Smartest move: Waving Connolly goodbye after just a few games, to be replaced by Daniel Herbert.

Best Prime Minister quip at an after-match function: PM Tony Abbott, an old rah-rah player and coach, turned up at Manly Oval to launch the Marlins' club history, entitled Sun, Surf and Scrums. Shortly after Abbott, who is also the local MP, began his speech, a seat upon which three children were perched collapsed. His immediate retort: "I told you there were no safe seats over here."

Best dousing of an issue: Waratahs forward Jacques Potgieter upset Brumbies with homosexual slurs. Potgieter, who immediately realised he was in the wrong, did the right thing by quickly apologising and then attending Sydney Convicts training that week to explain himself.

All Blacks conjure Men in Black

Headline of the Year: "Joseph the amazing technical dream coach.' New Zealand Herald after Jamie Joseph masterminded the Highlanders' Super Rugby title triumph.

Best nickname: Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, by far the most powerful figure at the ARU, is known as 'the Don'. It is unclear if he is 'the Don' is as in Corleone or Trump.

Most frightening rugby ground ale: The Sayle Ale at Coogee Oval, named after Randwick stalwart and former Wallabies flanker Jeffrey Sayle. As one Randwick official hiccupped: "We've created a monster."

Australia's oldest living Wallaby, Eric Tweedale © Supplied

Favourite rugby interview of the year: Spending a morning with Australia's oldest player, the spritely Eric Tweedale, who at 94, observed: "We've got bogged down by the Laws especially involving forward play. It's got to the stage where you don't know what the whistle has been blown for. It's become too technical. The game also has to speed up. We're getting too much stoppages, and these stoppages are taking too long, particularly with penalty goals and conversions. If you're paying $75 to watch a game of football, you've got every reason to complain especially with so much time being wasted watching players preparing shots for goal. Half of what is going on is grandstanding. I find it really frustrating."

Eastwood retain Intrust Super Shute Shield

Biggest disaster at club level: The flawed Rugby Link - the ARU's online competition management and registration system - that infuriated all who had to use it. No wonder it was canned at the end of the season. Another ARU shocker; as big as forcing the juniors to play levies. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

Best half-time footage: James O'Connor and Adam Thomson blowing up at each other in the Reds' dressing room. It exposed what a mess the Reds were.

Worse time to fall asleep: A Wallabies player recently nodded off in a team meeting. His stature in the Test squad has in recent weeks dropped dramatically.

How Australia has lost credibility at international level: Once Australia held power at World Rugby level. Not anyone. They are now often sadly laughed at. There was much mirth over one recent silly suggestion emanating from Australia that the draw at future World Cups should ensure that northern and southern hemisphere countries are each guaranteed two semi-final spots. That happens when you get jersey tuggers involved.

And finally … best tired and emotional stories and silly-billy tales from the dressing room.

There's plenty to choose from this season, including:

  • Two Shute Shield first-graders coming to blows in the clubhouse after one match.
  • Several Waratahs really enjoyed themselves at a bush wedding, to the extent of being blown away by the experience, and also on the dance floor. We heard there were also some sensational Starsky & Hutch car escapades until one of the local farmers blew up about their stupid antics.
  • A referee in the Sydney club competition sighted having a drink in the winning team's shed after disallowing an opposing try that would have won them the game.
  • Strange threats involving flirtatious members of the Australian rugby media and paranoid players with a past that could come back to bite them big time.
  • Two Sydney clubs fought it out at a local derby and then fought it out at a local bar. A high-profile media couple causing dramas at Waratahs after-match functions. Egomania. One of them is now nicknamed 'Cruella'.
  • A saucy video appeared involving a Sydney premiership club, a gymnasium, players and a former functions manager. It prompted an inquiry at the club, which saw two directors almost coming to blows. Apparently they are also close to the former functions manager.

That's it until next season. But during the World Cup keep an eye out for a special no-prisoners Growden On Tour in the UK Diary.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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