Updated: Jul 5, 2020
It's back! The game they play in heaven returns on Friday night, the Reds do battle with the Waratahs at Suncorp Stadium. It's been a long wait, the soap opera that is Australian Rugby has somewhat kept us entertained during the COVID period, now it's just good to see rugby back on the field in this revised domestic Super Rugby competition that we find ourselves in.
Each day this week, we're going to have a look each of the 5 local teams and how they shape up in the post-COVID world. Today, it's the ACT Brumbies.
Stability! That's the word you'd associate with the Brumbies throughout this COVID break. They've not changed anything in the way of their coaching staff and there's only been a couple of changes to the playing roster. Towering lock, Blake Enever has been released early to head overseas whilst an injury to Cadeyrn Neville has freed a spot up on the Brumbies roster for Ben Hyne, a man who has had his fair share of injuries but is given another opportunity to return to Canberra.
Before the shutdown, the Brumbies were rolling hot. 5 wins from 6 outings and a stranglehold on the Australian conference. The Brumbies boast a terrifically balanced roster, with experienced old heads, mixed in with some up and coming stars of the sport. A front row with names such as Slipper, Scott Sio, Fainga'a and skipper Allan Alaalatoa, the engine room for the Brumbies is formidable and they will continue to dominate set piece. Tom Banks, who will miss their Round 1 clash with the Rebels, is also someone I expect to be cementing his name as the best fullback in the country, a Wallaby jersey surely awaits him.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Noah Lolesio
Another one firmly on the Wallaby radar, he has slotted into Super Rugby with consummate ease. Lolesio is the one responsible for linking the dominant Brumbies forward pack with their talented outside backs in Kuridrani, Banks & co. This guy is a star and on his form prior to the break, should be given first crack at the Wallabies 10 spot when the time comes.
The Brumbies, likely dominant in this domestic comp, I think they'll play a final against the Reds. It's great to have rugby back!
They're back! Twiggy's boys in blue and yellow are back in Super Rugby, albeit a revised format. It's been 3 years since they last contested a Super Rugby match, biding their time in Global Rapid Rugby, NRC and anything else they could get their hands on to be truthful. A reasonably inexperienced squad, but in recent weeks have added a stack of experience to their roster with names like Jono Lance and Greg Holmes coming in, and then just today, former Wallaby scrum-half Nick Frisby and Pek Cowan heading west as well. The Force have made it clear they not there to make the numbers, they want more than that. They get the Bye in Round 1, before heading to Sydney next week to take on the Tahs.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Byron Ralston
Just 20 years of age and plenty of upside to this former QLD'er. His opportunity for representative honours with Australia's Under 20's has been wiped out by COVID-19, Ralston was the leading try scorer in QLD Premier Rugby in 2019 prior to joining the Force. One of the brightest young stars in NRC last year, Ralston is one to watch out for this year on the end of the Force backline.
Are the Force contenders? Not sure. They've been the least effected by the COVID pandemic, with Twiggy continuing to pay his 'staff'. They probably lack some of the star power of other clubs, but maybe time together and limited disruption will mean they can be competitive. The media will say that a lot of their roster are offcuts or perhaps some that might have past their best, some of that criticism may be fair. Time will tell, I think they will find it tough but it's great to have them back in the competition!
If the Rebels squad aren’t all COVID infected, they’ll take on the Brumbies this Saturday Night in Canberra. What a nightmare that’s turning out to be, with the Rebels needing to relocate their home base for the foreseeable future as the second wave of Coronavirus runs rampant across Victoria.
At least they're in good spirits!
After a bad start in 2020, the Rebels turned it around with back-to-back wins against the Waratahs and Lions. Then in Round 5, they travelled across the ditch and beat the Highlanders, what a win that was. I can’t see the revised format being kind to the Rebels, plenty of uncertainty with the schedule, away from home and their families, no home ground to rely on, it’s going to take a mammoth effort for them to be featuring at the business end of the season.
The Rebels too have had some changes to their roster, with Luke Jones released early to join the Top 14. Harry Potter, the wizard, has signed with English club Leicester, whilst Prop Fereti Sa’aga has announced his retirement. With the World 7’s Series paused indefinitely, the Rebels pounced, securing the services of Lewis Holland and Lachie Anderson, who will join former 7’s teammate Jeral Skelton in Melbourne, well, Canberra at least.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Billy Meakes<