The Rogues Rant #229

Welcome to The Rogues Rant, an occasional look at all things Rugby

Welcome to Rugby Season 2020. In what has been a horrific start to 2020 with the disastrous bush fires raging throughout the South Coast and the Southern Highlands, our thoughts are with all our Rugby friends caught up in this terrible event. Let’s hope that the worst is over and the remaining weeks of summer are kind to everyone so far affected.    

Yes believe it or not the season proper is only a matter of weeks away with Super Rugby kicking off from Friday January 31st. The early start will see the tournament run straight through unbroken with the quarter finals set for 6th June and the Final to be played on the 20th June. The Brumbies and Reds open the Australian campaign when they clash in Canberra on the Friday night. The Rebels travel to Japan first up to play the Sunwolves on Saturday while the Waratahs have a huge opener against The Crusaders in Nelson on Saturday night our time. With all the discussions around the future of Super Rugby don’t be surprised if 2020 proves to be the swansong season for the Provincial Competition. With the broadcast deals coming to an end this year and plenty of other options being discussed by the various parties, I think we’ll be watching something completely different in 2021. My tips for Round 1 – Chiefs, Brumbies, Sharks, Rebels, Crusaders, Hurricanes and Jaguares.

One of Illawarra’s favorite sons Geoff “Bunter” Shaw has taken on a new role in 2020. Geoff has been appointed to the newly created role of Wallaby Statesman. Geoff is the first of what is expected will be several former Wallaby greats who will be acting as a Mentor for players and staff throughout the representative programs. Bunter will be directly linked to the Junior Wallabies. In an interview with Rugby.com.au, Geoff commented on the appointment - “It’s a huge honor to be invited into such a ground-breaking team, particularly in light of their recent success,” Shaw said. “I’m looking forward to in some small way contributing to both the players and the staff, bringing in some small aspects of past Wallaby teams that may have been overlooked since the inauguration of professional rugby. When you look at other sports in Australia, they do a really good job in maintaining a large component of tradition and heritage and I’m looking to drive this component of the Junior Wallabies program in 2020.” Geoff commented. This initiative is surely a step in the right direction.

The IDRU Board takes on a somewhat different look going into 2020. With long term President, Peter Woods stepping down after 11 seasons in the top job, Darin Crofts moves into the main chair for the 2020 season. John Masters (Vice President), Andrew Webb (Treasurer), Steve Tresidder (Rugby Chairman) and Tom Ellicott (Judiciary Administration) all retain their roles on the Board. Dion Miller returns to the Board as a Director after taking a break for a couple of years and the new man in the Role of Junior Chairman is Harvey Cole. The final Directors position has been taken by Bowral President Mark Freund. Mark has been the driving force behind the saving and resurrection of the Southern Highlands club in recent years and is sure to bring plenty of knowledge and positive vibes into his new role. The IDRU season gets underway on the 28th March with Grand Final day set for 19th September. The NSW Country Championships will be on in Tamworth again this year over the long weekend in June.

Speaking of Country Championships the Illawarriors training squad has been announced and looks very good. It’s really good to see several new players in the squad getting their chance following good form during the 2019 Premiership year. Two players who really deserve their opportunity are IDRU Player of the Year winner Jai Gunton from Camden and robust Shamrocks center Dale Sullivan who both put in strong consistent performances for their sides right throughout last year. In an interesting move former Uni players Donovan Nepia and Paul Tuala fill the coaching roles under the direction of Shaun McCreedy who will continue in his role as Coach of the NSW Country Cockatoos in 2020.

The Rogue is off for some sightseeing in the land of the long white cloud between now and March. I’ll be back on deck in time to report on the build up to the new season. It will all be back on again before you realise it. Don’t forget to get your tickets for the big Super Rugby match between the Waratahs and the Chiefs at WIN Stadium on Friday 6th March, kicking off at 7.15PM. 

All opinions offered in this column are the opinion of the author. They should not be considered to represent the views of the IDRU.