AS a rugby follower, wasn't it great to see Quade Cooper running around in Super rugby last week.
I thought he was respectable the other night against the Lions, but he needs a few more "rides in the saddle" before he's ready for Test footy, or Super rugby finals, should the Reds make it.
After tomorrow's game against the Brumbies, should Cooper not be selected for Wallaby duties where can he find these "rides in the saddle"? Rugby's third tier, that's where.
While he will more than likely entertain us in the Reds trial against the Hurricanes on the Sunshine Coast on June 15, it's at the third tier where his talents can be best fined tuned. And that's a bonus for us lovers of the third tier.
So, for those in and around Brisbane, check out his form for club side Souths over the next month or so in the Premier competition.
Kicking and conservative approaches to rugby
Kicking plays an important role in any of the team contact sports we follow passionately.
As this is a rugby column, I'll keep my critique of kicking to Super Rugby.
Even though Super Rugby operates within the entertainment industry, legitimate kicking has a place in contemporary rugby. Kicking is a valid attacking option for numerous reasons, from releasing pressure to simply gaining ground, to name a few. The excitement, controversy and action generated from a contestable kick or long, raking torpedo certainly adds to the overall entertainment package. Ok, so enough of the positives of 'going the slipper'.
In the rugby context, where the game's norms and 'ways of doing things' have evolved within the framework around the game's defining element, the contest for the ball, the kick has traditionally played a significant role in a team's attack.
Even though the game's rules have developed over the last 15 years, approaches to attack have not, for the most part, evolved along with those rule advances.
A primary force driving attack at the present revolves around empowering players to take responsibility for their attacking options. Quite often kicking is defended as letting the players make decision on the field. 'Play what's in front of you, or 'interpret the situation and take the appropriate action' is the retort. And this is where a large part of the problem lies.
The other issue we have is the small pool of coaches and their cautious, risk adverse approach to rugby. I honestly believe coaching in Australia is terribly conservative. Players are still coached for the majority of their junior and adolescent career (where they learn their instincts and approached to playing the game) with a conservative style and mind-set.
Our players learn their approach from a small cohort of role models (coaches and former players) armed with a preference on kicking. So when they get into the game and 'play what's in front of them' old instincts kick in (if you don't mind the pun) and us spectators are left frustrated and unsatisfied as teams kick away possession wastefully.
When you are watching Super Rugby over the next few weeks, have a look at the approaches to our Super teams' kicking game/options. While guided by a general team policy on kicking, what options did the players take? Risk adverse? Did they back themselves and their team mates? What were the possibilities if they had run the ball? And most importantly, why did they make each decision?
Instincts are learnt and nurtured (they are not part of our genes) and we need fresh role models with progressive approaches to the game, especially in our junior and adolescent teams, competitions and programs.