From intrepid kids to resurrected veterans, there’s so much to love about these Wallabies

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From intrepid kids to resurrected veterans, there’s so much to love about these Wallabies

One day, and it’s been a few years now, I was at Bonville Golf Resort just south of Coffs Harbor, where the Wallabies held their annual golf day with local businessmen.

At the post-round function, a journo mate and I sat at a table with a claque of Wallabies, a few of whom were a couple of beers deep, unknowingly chatting in that bitchy, in-club kind of way about a teammate who’d elected not to tour the UK during the “Spring” internationals at the end of the season.

“He’s going to take care of his knee,” one said. “Get it right.”

“He can still play,” said the other. “He’s had the same thing all year.”

“Yeah, but he’s so funny. He’s one of those ‘proud of achievements’ kind of guys.”

“Ha – who cares? You are still being paid.”

Another Wallaby at the table more or less caught the attention of the couple who remembered myself and said journo mate sat at the table, soup spoons stopped at their mouths, curious and curious, a few snakes on the plane. And there was an awkward silence.

And here we are.

Where are we? Heading for those same Spring Tour internationals, sports fans, and no one in Wallabies gold, you might say, would choose not to be on that plane.
And Wallabies fans, who traditionally half ignored Tests given early in the morning, are like Katrina Leskanich from Katrina and the Waves singing, “I always thought maybe you loved me now baby, I’m sure / And I just can’t wait for the day you knock on my door Now every time I go to the letterbox I have to contain myself Because I’m just waiting for you to write to me that you’re coming / I’m walking on sunshine.”

Swap “mailbox” for The Roar’s list of Spring tour start times and you’ll find it kicking off in Japan (Saturday, October 23) and you’ll get a sense of the success of the Wallabies 2021 season.

Because, as they say, how good? A 2-1 win over France and four test wins at the trot, including two over world champions and, from Saturday night, world number one, South Africa. And aside from the traditional New Zealand banter (it’s like we’re just kind of cop and move on), there’s plenty to love.

I liked Matt Philip, five minutes after the end of the second Argentine test match that Australia was sure to win, and he urged his scrum mates to “Come on!” He was a big body in the middle, threw it around, pressure play on point.

I liked Len Ikitau whether he was going to the leash, feeding arch supports, or grass-cutting runners. Looks nice, young Lenny.

(Photo by Getty Images)

I loved using Tate McDermott and Nic White together. Different players, different men. I don’t care who Aaron Smith wants to be and who TJ Perenara wants to be, just keep going, cobbers.

I loved the bustling back row with all the action – Rob Valetini, Lachie Swinton, Pete Samu – big bodies, high pressure, hard loads. Simple, brutal. Top stuff.

I liked Noah Lolesio and Hunter Paisami. Yes, those interception passes. But sports fans, know this: Under instruction they were themselves. Expressing oneself and ‘playing’ rugby. Best of all, they tried. And if nothing else, the Kiwi Dave Rennie has tapped into an important part of our Aussie psyche: try it, you mug!

I liked that Rennie picked pretty much anyone he liked. And back they came – Quade Cooper (Quade Cooper!), Sean McMahon, Samu Kerevi, Izack Rodda, Pete Samu – the so-called Giteau Act sent like so much bureaucracy. Top stuff, extraordinary times. They even brought back Greg Holmes (Greg Holmes!) who made his Queensland debut when Lolesio was five.

But most of all I liked the following, the shiners for the green-and-gold, the men who may represent those half a dozen world-class players Bob Dwyer once believed every country that has won a Rugby World Cup needs.

Top of the list, Taniela Tupou. What about him. Ben Alexander played 76 Tests for Australia and says our man Tongan Thor is everything he wanted to be. Fast enough, agile, skilful and enormous power at breakdown and scrum. And he can play big minutes.

From the center to the outer rim and Andrew Kellaway made his debut for Australia at the age of 25 after several years in the wilderness. Yet it was made for him. He was a boy who said he wanted to play fullback, now he is a man who has discovered that he can play anywhere and enjoy it immensely. And he smokes it.

Quade Cooper was everything you look for in a No. 10: calm, competent, a communicator, a distributor. Agile stairs. Smooth ball work. Top options. And subtle. So subtle. Ball in hand, he’s suspended the pogostick maneuvers of a young Benji Marshall or Carlos Spencer for a more measured, yet perhaps more powerful, approach.

It’s not just about him in the No.10, it’s about the men around him. The team. If he stays fit – and stays with Sonny Bill Williams a bit more – who wouldn’t want 35-year-old Quade Cooper on the World Cup squad? Answer: All Blacks; springbok; poms.

Samu Kerevi came back from Japan better than when he left. The No.12 is carved in the middle. Low center of gravity, hip bump like a fat little bumper car, the big dogs of world rugby will have to double team him with aggressive forwards to help with shot backs. Absolute weapon. Maybe you can also persuade him to stay at SBW.

Marika Koroibete has almost reinvented the wing game in that he does what he does, at high speed, all over the park. Sharper than Leigh Sales.

And of course, perhaps best to stay was the skipper: Michael Hooper, who, like Serevi, may have sent a better player back from his ‘sabbatical’ in Japan.

Hooper was everywhere. And he was there at speed. And he ran and he ran and he ran. And he tackled. And worked in dark places. And somehow he still managed to talk to referees like the head prefect of Shore showing visitors through a dorm room.

And good luck to him. The guy has been world class for a long time. And it looks like he might have some friends for the ride.

And you wouldn’t miss it for a cent.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of and does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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