For those that missed the memo, the Super Rugby season came to an exciting conclusion over the weekend and players from each franchise are now heading back to their local clubs or into Wallaby camp. It is time to cast an eye over the five Australian franchises and their performance over the domestic season.
What a season for the Brumbies. 2012 was a heartbreaking year for the Canberra side as they fell one game short of a dream finals berth. In 2013, the Brumbies were a side hungry for success and were led extremely well by coach Jake White and skipper Ben Mowen. While they may not have played the most attractive brand of rugby at times, they still managed to cross the line more than the “attacking” Queensland Reds. It is no coincidence the Brumbies have had tweleve players admitted to the Wallabies squad (a number of them are certain to start). 2014 will be a big year for the Brumbies as they look to go one better.
The Reds will be disappointed with some missed chances in 2013. It seems as though other Australian sides have figured out a way to counter the dynamic halves pairing of Quade Cooper and Will Genia. At times throughout the year Queensland really struggled in attack, something that many thought would be the last of the Reds’ worries after watching them from 2010-2012. The Brumbies stumbled a number of times throughout the season but the Reds were unable to capitalise and take top spot in the Australian conference, a spot that would have gifted them a home final. Coaching guru Ewen Mackenzie has left the side for the head coaching honours at the Wallabies, leaving Richard Graham with large shoes to fill. I for one am predicting a slide next year, as the Reds face a stiff battle against Waratahs for a low finals spot.
The Rebels had a tumultuous 2013, with flashes of high quality rugby often succumbing to poor off-field discipline (two players in particular). Whilst a 12th place finish may not look attractive to most, the Rebels are trying to build a culture on the field, one that is similar to front-runners Queensland and ACT. A number of close losses in games against quality sides were reminiscent of performances from those sides in the years prior to title contention. After releasing troubled stars Kurtley Beale and James O’Connor, the Rebels could go either up or down the table next year. Either way there are some interesting times ahead for the Melbourne club.
New South Wales Waratahs:
As they began a new era under coach Micheal Cheika another year of high hopes lead to another year of shortcomings for the Waratahs. Granted, the Tahs improved in a number of areas this year and if it wasn’t for such a slow start they may have pushed for a finals berth ahead of the Queensland Reds. Unfortunately the NSW side couldn’t put together strong performances against their Australian counterparts and this trend cannot continue in 2014 if they want to play finals football. Cheika looks to have changed the culture at the Tahs HQ and next year might finally “be their year”. Only time will tell.
2013 was yet full of disappointment for the Perth side as they fought to attract any big name recruits to the AFL-centric city. Kyle Godwin was named player of the year for the Force and he is a shining light in a poor-performing side. The Force may pick up ex-recruit James O’Connor in the offseason as every other Australian club has signalled a lack of interest in the troubled star; there is no that O’Connor would be great signing for any club. The last thing the Force needs is a lack of stars; players like O’Connor will attract crowds. However this is not the reason they have struggled since their inception. Poor structures and weak set-piece play will continue to haunt the Force until they can produce some high quality forwards. 2014 could prove to be similar to 2013 if this isn’t fixed.
It has been a strong year for Australian Rugby against its international counterparts in the Super 15, let’s hope the trend continues in the Rugby Championships.