The Rogues Rant

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

What does the future hold for Illawarra Rugby in 2018 and beyond? It is impossible to argue with the belief that the wholesale payment of players in the Illawarra is not good for Rugby in our region. The IDRU has taken the bold step to declare the Illawarra Rugby competition amateur from the 2018 season, and for this they should be commended for making their decision with the best interests of Illlawarra Rugby in mind. Anecdotally I can tell you that there have been plenty of players paid by their clubs to play Rugby in the Illawarra over the last twenty years or so. There have also been plenty of players given some form of financial assistance in order to enable them to be able to make the sort of commitment required in this day and age. It’s a lot harder for young guys these days to get quality employment which enables them to be able to make that commitment to Rugby. Times are different in 2017 than to what they were in the 1970’s and 80’s and it’s not as easy to fit rugby in with working opportunities and family commitments. I reckon some consideration should be given to allowing for some form of limited paid marque player signings at clubs to enable clubs to attract quality players not only to their clubs but to the district in order to maintain and improve the standard of rugby in our region. Also some consideration should be given to the payment of expenses for players to attend training and matches which can go a long way to making the difference as to whether players can or can’t make the required commitment to rugby. The changes are certainly going to have an impact on how our competition looks in 2018 and will have to be a work in progress if we are to get the balance right in the best interest of Rugby right across our district.

After three rounds of the NRC competition the NSW Country Eagles have limped out of the blocks with two losses from two starts. With losses to the Greater Sydney Rams by 44 – 23 and newcomers Fiji Drua by 31 – 14, the Eagles are languishing at the bottom of the table with only Melbourne behind them. A round four match up with Canberra Vikings will test the Eagles even more with the Vikings sitting equal third with two wins from three starts. The Eagles after making the final last year will need to get cracking pretty soon if they are to stay in the hunt this year.

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The Rogues Rant

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

Can you believe that the 2017 IDRU Rugby Season is over already? The Rogues congratulations go to Avondale on an amazing season of 20 wins from 20 matches. Well done to rookie Coach Murray McDonald, taking the First Grade title at his first attempt, and now showing a 100% First Grade winning record as a coach! It was an outstanding performance from the Wombats which overshadowed another excellent performance from runners up Vikings. The Sean Barrett coached Blueys can look back on the year with pride considering that they were the only side to get anywhere near the Wombats throughout the year, not dropping a result to any other team throughout the year other than the Champions. Both clubs should be satisfied on what was a truly outstanding seasons.2017 3 Avondale GF Day

It’s great to see Geoff “Bunter” Shaw making his way back to Wollongong as often as he does to present the Player of the Grand Final Medal, named in his honor. Geoff handed the Medal over to this year’s winner Andre Itula at WIN Stadium last Saturday as he has done most years since the Medals inception in 2005. Geoff is the most decorated Wallaby from the Illawarra ever having played for the Wallabies 68 times including 27 Test Matches over a period of ten years from 1969 through to 1979. Born in Kiama in 1948 and educated at Edmond Rice College in Wollongong, Geoff was a member of the very successful Kiama club in the 70’s during which time he also captained Illawarra and NSW Country before moving to Queensland in 1977. He played for NSW 22 times and Queensland 47 times until his retirement. He Captained the Wallabies 9 times from 1975 and was inducted into the Rugby Hall of Fame in 2012. Geoff is very well respected throughout the Australian Rugby community and let’s hope we see plenty of him in the years to come.

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Avondale Complete Perfect Season

MatchReportAvondale Wombats delivered the final touches on the 2017 IDRU Builders Club Premiership with a 27 – 12 Grand Final victory over Vikings at WIN Stadium. In recording their twentieth win of their unbeaten season, the Wombats were powerful in a four tries to two win to put the final exclamation mark on a remarkable year for the club.

Despite having the better of the contest for a twenty minute period of the second half Vikings were never able to get themselves into a winning position in the face of the customary Wombats power game. Vikings defensive effort was outstanding as they battled gamely throughout the match under the pressure of the relentless Avondale attacking machine. As they have done all season Wombats star Fly-half, Silipa Tuigamala and skipper Andre Itula took full advantage of the superior performance of their forward pack featuring powerhouse prop Anthony Amone. The Wombats forward pack terrorised the Vikings defence as the Wombats put on three first half tries to go to the break with a commanding match defining19 – 0 lead.

Vikings outscored the new Premiers in the second term but the damage had been done by half time and despite playing short-handed with two players in the bin during the second stanza the Wombats came home strong with a barnstorming Anthony Amone try to seal the win right on full-time.

Fullback Jacob Kara opened the scoring in the decider in the tenth minute after Itula ran wide opening up a big gap in the Blueys defence for Kara to breeze through and score wide out. With the try converted by Tuigamala for a 7 – 0 lead, Wombats dominated field position for the next twenty minutes as the Blueys defence held firm under extreme pressure before Amone crossed for the first of his two tries with less than ten minutes to the break. Tuigamala added a clever converted try of his own after he combined with blind side winger Blake Spencer to cross in the shadows of halftime setting up a match winning margin of 19 – 0.

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The Rogues Rant

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

The Rogue spent the early part of Sunday morning cleaning the egg of his face after that incredible performance from the Wallabies in Dunedin. In the match a week earlier the Wallabies one on one defense was appalling and their slow moving defensive line leaked like a sieve. In Dunedin they were committed individually and their fast moving line defense really put the Kiwis off their game to allow the Aussie attack some space with the likes of Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau and half back Will Genia getting amongst them. But the All Blacks showed once again just how good they are and found a way to deny the Wallabies a much needed win and retain the Bledisloe Cup. Let’s hope the Wallabies can get plenty of confidence out of this one and carry on that sought of form for the rest of The Rugby Championships.

Congratulations to Ethan McIntosh on his appointment as Referee for this week’s Grand Final. I for one wondered a couple of weeks ago whether his appointment to the Minor Semi-Final may have come a little early in his career. Ethan’s performance in that match at Camden and his game in the Final between Vikings and University was the performance you would expect from a much more senior experienced Referee. At 25 years of age he showed in those two very tense matches just what he is made of, showing a maturity much beyond his years. On Saturday he will become the youngest man to ever Referee an IDRU Grand Final and many good judges think he has plenty more to come. Well done Ethan and good luck for Saturday!

Had University hung on and won last week’s Final against Vikings and qualified for the Grand Final against Avondale they would have struggled to put a First Grade standard side on the field in the big game. On the back of season ending injuries to half-back Marama Penitito (Shoulder) and Flanker Takunda Chimwaza (Ankle) in recent weeks, they copped two more serious injuries last Saturday that would have weakened them even further. No.8 Damien Mei, one of their very best for the season suffered an Achilles Tendon injury on Saturday which will need surgery to repair, and Wingman Reuben Thompson suffered a severe knee injury, the extent of which is still to be determined. On top of the injuries star goal-kicking Fly-half Tom Baker was Yellow Carded for the third time this season during the final and as such would have copped an automatic one match suspension making him unavailable for the Grand Final. Given all those circumstances a Bulls victory last week would have probably led to somewhat of an anti-climax come Grand Final day had they survived. Bring on Avondale V Vikings.

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Tuigamala Takes IDRU Player Of The Year Award

illawarrarugbylogoInfluential Avondale Fly-Half Silipa Tuigamala has taken out the IDRU Player of the Year Award, presented at the IDRU Grand Final Dinner & Presentations at the Master Builders Club on Wednesday night. The Dinner attended by representatives from all clubs and affiliates was a fitting celebration of another successful season of Rugby in the Illawarra.

Tuigamala took out the main prize, which was judged by IDRU Referees throughout the season on a three-two-one points basis per match, just ahead of runner up Jackson Watts from Shoalhaven who went home with three awards. As well as the runner up trophy Watts also won the Tops Points Scorer and Top Try Scorer awards.

In somewhat of a surprise Bowral Coach Gene Fairbanks was awarded the Coach of the Year as judged by his coaching peers for the second year in a row. In a vote by all the First Grade Coaches, John Maughan, who is to Referee Saturdays Second Grade Grand Final, between Vikings and Bowral, won Referee of the Year. Ethan McIntosh was announced as Referee of the First Grade match between Avondale and Vikings with David Gunning to control the Third Grade match between Shoalhaven and Vikings.

The Bowral club also featured in the Senior Volunteer of the Year Award when the very popular Mark Fruend took home the spoils. Junior Volunteer of the Year went to Emma Maddison from Shoalhaven.

The Representative Players of the Year went to Paul Tuala in the Senior Illawarriors, Corey Aylette for the Under 20’s and Melissa Fatu for the Women’s. Country Representative Players were recognised with awards to Senior Cockatoo Players Paul Tuala, Henry Yuill, Jesse Roche, Andy Rae, Andy Papworth, Leighton Cowley and Wayne Ngatai. Awards were also presented to Under 20 Players Corey Aylett and Keeran McCourt along with Country Women’s Corella Players Brenda Auelua, Jemima Henry, Melissa Fatu, and Sally Fuesaina.

The IDRU Team Trophies went to:

Minor Premiers – First Grade                Avondale

                            Second Grade           Camden

                            Third Grade               Shoalhaven

Club Champions -                                  Avondale

Halfway Cup -                                        Avondale

John Hayne Interclub Shield -             Avondale      

A Special Grand Final To Complete 2017

illawarrarugbylogoThe 2017 Grand Final will go down as one of the most special in the history of the IDRU no matter who lifts the Buarraneer Cup after Saturday’s game. The Grand Final combatants Avondale and Vikings have proved to be the two most outstanding sides of 2017 and deserve to be in the big game.

Avondale have taken all before them going into Saturday's match having won all nineteen matches they have contested so far this year. Their opponents Vikings have earnt their spot having not lost a match to any other side during the season other than the unbeaten Wombats. The Blueys were the only side to deny Avondale bonus points in their two premiership round matches, both of which went down to the wire with Avondale prevailing by five points on both occasions.

A Grand Final victory for Avondale will complete arguably the most successful season for any team in the history of the IDRU. After eighteen wins during the season proper and a dominant 36 – 20 victory over Vikings in the Major Semi-Final a fortnight ago, the Wombats will start firm favourites to complete the perfect season of twenty straight wins and take the 2017 Builders Club Premiership.

Vikings Rugby Club is celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the club in 2017 and have qualified for all three Grand Finals. They are shooting for their fourteenth First Grade Premiership, the most of any club in the Illawarra. Having completed fifteen wins and a draw for 2017, with three losses to Avondale, the Blueys go into the Grand Final after a remarkable 32 - 29 win over Uni in last week’s Final.

Another special feature of this year’s GF is the fact that the match will be Refereed by the youngest Referee ever to control an IDRU First Grade Grand Final. Ethan McIntosh at the ripe old age of 25, will enter the record books as the youngest ever Grand Final whistle blower when he takes the field on Saturday.

Whichever way Saturday’s game goes it will be followed by a celebration of a special achievement for either of the clubs involved. Good luck to all clubs, players and officials involved in what is sure to be an enjoyable finale to another Rugby season.

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