The National Rugby Championship has become a great development tool for Australian rugby. Sadly there just doesn’t seem to be enough professional position to keep the rising talent base in Australia.
Maybe Twiggy Forrest’s Indo-Pacific Rugby Championships will help?
In recent months I’m sure you’ve heard about the apparent “lack of depth” in Australia’s talent pool. Honestly, it’s rubbish. Australian rugby doesn’t have a depth issue it has a player retention issue!
Just check out this article from The Roar examining the depth of Aussies plying their talent abroad.
Yet with all the players heading offshore, a lot of talent has graduated from the NRC into Super Rugby and in my opinion these 30 players are some of the best.
The qualify for these sides the players need to have played maximum of a few minutes prior to earning their break through the NRC.
NRC Graduates 1st XV
1 – Tom Robertson (Rays & Eagles – Waratahs – Wallabies)
The ‘scrum doctor’ (in training) deferred a medical degree to pursue his rugby career, something that would please Waratahs’ and Wallabies’ fans.
Starting his Super Rugby career at tighthead, he was forced to switch to loosehead with the return of Sekope Kepu.
Having already gained 11 international caps at 23 years of ages, Robertson could have a long career ahead of him.
2 – Jordan Uelese (Rising – Rebels – Wallabies)
If you haven’t been keeping an eye on the U20s, Uelese’s debut for the Wallabies likely came as a surprise to you. At the age of 20 he only has a handful of NRC caps and has played very limited minutes for the Melbourne Rebels.
3 – Allan Alaalatoa** (Vikings – Brumbies – Wallabies)
Allan and his older brother Michael (Crusaders) are the first siblings to play each other for Super Rugby teams on opposite ends of the Tasman.
His father Vili, who played international rugby for Samoa, named Allan after Australia’s cricket captain Allan Border
4 – Rory Arnold (Vikings – Brumbies – Wallabies)
Rory’s meteoric rise from the Murwillumbah Bananas 3rd grade side into the Wallabies is a testament to his attitude. At 208cm he is Australia’s tallest ever professional rugby player, only being matched by his twin brother Richie.
5 – Izack Rodda (QLD Country – Reds – Wallabies)
Rodda started his professional career in 2016 for QLD Country but 2017 has been his breakout season.
At 21, Rodda is tipped as a star of the future and he didn’t look out of his depth when he was thrust into his Wallabies debut against the All Blacks this Bledisloe Cup series.
6 – Ned Hanigan (Eagles – Waratahs – Wallabies)
Having been thrust from the row into the number 6 jersey due to an injury to Waratah Jack Dempsey, he made the jersey his own in 2017 before claiming a starting Wallabies spot in the process.
A true country boy, Hanigan is a workhorse but he still has a lot of development ahead of him before he is a finished product like his predecessor Scott Fardy.
7 – Richard Hardwick (Spirit – Force – Wallabies)
Hardwick is another youngster who has made his debut for the Wallabies in 2017. His tradesman like defence and consistent pressure saw him finish in the top 10 for turn overs in Super Rugby this season.
8 – Isi Naisarani (City & Spirit – Force)
When is this guy eligible for the Wallabies?
A dominant 2016 NRC season earned Naisarani a Western Force jersey this season. At 110kg and 6ft 5″ the destructive number 8 could be the answer the Wallabies have been waiting for… that is when he becomes eligible to don the gold at the end of the year.
9 – Joe Powell (Vikings – Brumbies – Wallabies)
An injury to Argentina’s Tomas Cubelli saw Powell claim the starting Brumbies’ halfback position this year. His bullet pass and ability to read the game was spotted by Cheika long before the Australian public. Seeing him called into the Wallabies squad in 2016 off the back of a couple NRC seasons and very limited opportunities in Super Rugby.
10 – David Horwitz (Eagles – Waratahs & Rebels)
The Rebels have bagged themselves a true director, equally capable at 10 or 12. A strong contribution in a successful season for the NSW Country Eagles in 2015 has earned him 20 odd appearances for the Waratahs since his debut in 2016.
11 – Reece Hodge (Rays & Rising – Rebels – Wallabies)
The Manly and North Harbour Rays’ prodigy made his move to the Rebels in 2015 and hasn’t looked back.
The utility back is equally adept at fullback and wing, however he is also capable filling in at fly-half or centre. One of his biggest assets is his long-range kicking, something the Wallabies aren’t afraid to use when they are more than 50m out.
12 – Duncan Paua’aiua (QLD Country – Reds)
Paua’aiua changed codes after leaving school, spending two years with the Brisbane Broncos U20s before making his way into a Reds jersey via QLD Country.
The Qld Country captain continues to from strength to strength and he surely can’t be far off the Wallabies squad.
13 – Sefa Naivalu (Rising – Rebels – Wallabies)
Comfortable at outside centre or on the wing, Naivalu started his professional career with 5 tries from 5 matches for the Melbourne Rising. Earning himself a contract for the Rebels.
This flying Fijian has jet boots, clocking in a time of 10.5seconds over 100m in 2011.
14 – Izaia Perese (QLD Country – Reds – Wallabies*)
Izzy’s blistering acceleration combined with his tackle breaking ability poses a real threat to his opposition. Drawing comparisons to Digby Ioane on the field this 20 year old is one to watch.
15 – Tom Banks** (QLD Country & Vikings – Reds & Brumbies – Wallabies*)
Only last week I was chatting to a few people saying this bloke offers more to a Wallabies outfit than a number of other outside backs in the squad.
The past few seasons has seen Banks rise through the ranks of Queensland rugby, the NRC and Super Rugby before being called into the Wallabies squad for the Rugby Championships.
NRC Graduates 2nd XV
1 – Sam Talakai
2 – Andrew Ready
3 – Michael Alaalatoa**
4 – Blake Enever**
5 – Matt Phillip
6 – Jack Dempsey
7 – Adam Korzcyc
8 – Rahboni Vosayaco – P.S can somebody get this bloke back in Aussie rugby… Looking at you Milan Volavola (his manager, I think). Not only does Rahboni have one of the best names in Super Rugby, playing out of Japan for the Sunwolves, but he could also be the answer to the Wallabies number 8 woes. At the ripe ol’ age of 21 he has a lot of promise.
9 – Jake Gordon
10 – Jake McIntyre
11 – Alex Newsome
12 – Irae Simone
13 – Campbell Magnay
14 – James Dargaville
15 – Andrew Kellaway
Notables: Taniela “Tongan Thor” Tupou, Ross Haylett-Petty, Lolo Fakaosilea, Michael Ruru, Mack Mason, Jordan Jackson-Hope, Sione Tuipulotu, Paul Asquith, Jonah Placid, Jack Maddox
Players to watch:
(* = Uncapped, ** = Negligible SR minutes before NRC)
Written by Nelson Dale