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Western Force’s return to Super Rugby spoiled by strong second half from NSW Waratahs



The Western Force have shown they aren’t in Super Rugby AU to make up the numbers after giving the NSW Waratahs a scare in their first outing at the SCG.

Following a first-round bye, the Force looked right at home on Saturday night in their first Super Rugby match since 2017 — when they were cut from the original competition — before falling 23-14.

They led until the 61st minute when NSW lock Tom Staniforth burrowed over the line, with the converted try opening up a six-point lead for the home side.

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The try came after Karmichael Hunt won his team a lineout with the first of his two 50-22 kicks, making an impression in his return off the bench from a hamstring injury.

The Force’s long-time skipper Ian Prior fittingly delivered his team’s first points with a penalty strike after 13 minutes.

Prior and fellow veteran Jono Lance, who joined from UK club Worcester, led a polished performance by the West Australian side, who had temporarily relocated to the NSW Hunter Valley.

Former Junior Wallabies winger Byron Ralston scored their opening try in the 28th minute when he barged past Waratahs number 10 Will Harrison, who was defending on the flank.

The Force led 14-7 at half-time with Waratahs prop Gus Bell securing some much-needed points with a 39th-minute try after a driving lineout.

NSW looked a different team after the break, playing with much more energy to keep the Force scoreless.

They still only managed the one try but it was enough to secure their first points after an opening-round loss to Queensland.

AAP



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Plan to reduce NSW Rugby Union workforce tipped to have ‘devastating’ effect on local game



Central North Rugby Union says the grassroots level of competition will be hardest hit by recently announced job cuts at New South Wales Rugby Union.

The state’s governing body last week confirmed an organisation-wide restructure by making 12 development officers redundant and letting go almost a quarter of its staff.

Seventy per cent of its workforce has been stood down since April.

Chief executive Paul Doorn said the cuts were required to protect the organisation’s future.

“NSW Rugby came into the COVID-19 pandemic in a solid financial position, but with Super Rugby suspended, a loss in broadcast, sponsorship, ticketing and other revenue sources has seen reduced funding available from Rugby Australia as well as NSW Waratahs revenue, along with a loss of revenue coming into the community game,” he said.

‘Lifeblood of rugby’

The ABC understands the cuts will affect positions of regional development officers, who have played a prominent role in building and maintaining junior competitions in areas such as the central north.

CNRU president Tony Byrnes said the decision could have a devastating impact on the next generation of players.

“It certainly won’t help the effort that’s already been made by our development officer in assisting to get the regional competition going in the 14s, 16s and 18s, which really are the lifeblood of rugby.”

Mr Byrnes said he hoped the decision would be reversed before September, when the staff would be let go as JobKeeper runs out.

“It takes a long time to become a development officer and have all that expertise and skill, so if we lose them and when times improve they might have moved on and we’ve lost all that experience, all that knowledge, all that skill …”

Mr Doorn said NSW Rugby was still committed to the game in regional areas.

“Our commitment to supporting rugby from the beach to the bush is our top priority,” he said.

“That is why we have retained experienced staff that can support our clubs and zones and get the community game back and up and running, as well as support our NSW Waratahs teams, members and fans.

“We have ensured that staff retained have the skills and experience to support community competitions, referee and coach development as well as the different zones.”



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Brumbies beat Melbourne Rebels 31-23 as Australia’s Super Rugby AU continues



The Brumbies have picked up where they left off pre-coronavirus shutdown to post a thrilling 31-23 Super Rugby AU win over the Melbourne Rebels in Canberra.

There was rust early, but almost four months without a match has not diminished the Brumbies’ dominance over their Australian rivals.

Unbeaten in three matches against the Rebels, Waratahs and Reds before the suspension of the regular Super Rugby competition in March, the Brumbies’ latest victory confirms their favouritism for the revamped domestic tournament.

The Brumbies’ win follows the Reds’ 32-26 victory over the Waratahs in Brisbane in the opening Super Rugby AU encounter on Friday night.

With the Rebels forced to relocate to the national capital eight days ago due to the alarming spike in coronavirus cases in Melbourne, this evening’s showdown was billed as a new Canberra derby.

But Canberra Stadium, even in front of the only 1,500 spectators allowed in during strict COVID-19 restrictions, remains the Brumbies’ house despite a gritty second-half fightback from the Rebels.

Dan McKellar’s home side kept the Rebels try-less for almost an hour, while bagging four themselves to assume control.

Typically, the Brumbies’ first two five-pointers came after lineout wins.

Hooker Folau Fainga’a did superbly to back around after his throw in and then pop a lovely inside ball for winger Andy Muirhead to score untouched under the posts in just the third minute.

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Noah Lolesio’s conversion gave the hosts a 7-0 lead, before Matt Toomua cut the deficit to one point with two penalties as the Rebels’ scrum surprisingly dominated the Brumbies’ all-Wallabies front row.

After conceding four set-piece penalties in quick fashion, the referee warned the Brumbies a yellow card was coming next.

But they overcame their wobbles to open up a 19-6 half-time buffer.

The Brumbies’ signature driving maul delivered a try for lively half-back Joe Powell, then Fainga’a barged over for his sixth five-pointer in 2020.

The Brumbies looked like galloping to an easy win when the impressive Lolesio burst free to put winger Tom Wright over three minutes after the break.

But back-to-back Rebels tries to hooker Jordan Uelese and skipper Dane Haylett-Petty and Tooma’s third penalty of the night reduced the margin to one point.

The Brumbies were up for the grandstand finish, though, with replacement forward Will Miller sealing victory with the Brumbies’ fifth try three minutes from time.

AAP/ABC



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Queensland ends losing streak against New South Wales to launch Australian Super Rugby competition



The Queensland Reds have ended an 11-match losing streak against the New South Wales Waratahs, defying a second-half comeback to win 32-26 in Super Rugby AU’s launch this evening.

The Reds cruised to a 19-7 lead at Lang Park in Brisbane but suddenly looked like the team that had not beaten their border rivals in seven years.

Crushed in scrums and without the sin-binned Angus Bell for 10 minutes, the Waratahs still found a way to collect regular points and finished the half behind by just six.

Eight minutes into the second half they led by four when Jack Maddocks streamed on to a Lachie Swinton pass and through a gaping hole.

Harry Wilson sniffed out a five-pointer in reply though, before Taniela Tupou was sent to the sin-bin for taking out a kicker for the second time.

Waratahs five-eighth Will Harrison drilled an equaliser for the visitors but James O’Connor stepped up with a penalty of his own with three minutes to play.

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O’Connor then repeated the dose when the full-time siren sounded, with the Reds scoring four tries to two in front of 5,590 spectators.

Reds captain Liam Wright and Fraser McReight combined well in their first start together in the back row, while number eight Wilson continued his strong pre-coronavirus shutdown form.

Wright scored first and thought he had a second when he ran around the ruck to plant a loose ball in front of a sleeping Waratahs defence.

It was deemed offside though, as was a Tupou effort moments earlier as the Reds threatened to run away with the clash.

Tate McDermott darted in from a quick tap, while Filipo Daugunu crossed in the corner and Harry Johnson-Holmes burrowed over for the Waratahs’ first-half try.

The visitors gave away 18 penalties to the Reds’ nine, with tougher policing of the ruck and the novel 50-22 or 22-50 kicking rules both impacting play.

Super Rugby AU also includes the Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels and Western Force.

The Brumbies and Rebels face off at Canberra Stadium tomorrow evening.

AAP/ABC



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Super Rugby AU rule changes hoped to bring crowds back and change future of the game


It’s fair to say there will be many more eyes on Australia’s new domestic rugby competition when it kicks off this weekend than just those of the diehard fans.

Super Rugby AU is Australia’s equivalent of New Zealand’s Super Rugby Aotearoa, and was quickly formed to fill the breach left by the 15-team, five-nations Super Rugby tournament which went into COVID-19-enforced hibernation in mid-March.

The future of that competition remains in limbo, with both South Africa and Argentina isolated and their new case curve still trending upwards. Japan’s Sunwolves were to be mothballed at the end of the 2020 season anyway, and though there were attempts to have them play in the new Australian competition, they’ve now played their last game.

Australia’s four Super Rugby sides — the Queensland Reds, NSW Waratahs, Melbourne Rebels, and the Brumbies — will be joined by the Perth-based Western Force in a full home-and-away competition played over 10 weeks plus two weeks of finals.

For the Force, it marks their return to top-flight Australian rugby for the first time since their axing from Super Rugby at the end of the 2017 season.

Western Force players wait for a try decision during the World Series Rugby match against Fiji in 2018.
The Western Force will be welcomed back to the fold.(AAP: Richard Wainwright)

But it’s the law variations in place that will draw the extra attention, and from the moment the Reds and Waratahs run out onto Brisbane’s Lang Park on Friday night. Behind every one of the changes is an intention to make a more enjoyable spectacle of the game for spectators, fans and players alike.

A couple are already in place over the ditch, with Super Rugby Aotearoa implementing 10 minutes of “golden point” extra time in the event of a scoreboard deadlock after 80 minutes.

The other is the allowance to replace a player sent from the field with a red card after 20 minutes. The sent-off player can’t play any further part in the game, but the contest can be restored to 15 players on 15, 20 minutes later.

Neither has been seen in New Zealand yet in three rounds, but Australia’s leading referee Angus Gardner is a fan.

“You definitely want the players to decide the game and as a ref you prefer to not make a decision that decides it,” he said last week, of the extra time allowance.

Gardner has been busy over the past fortnight, running live familiarity sessions around the new variations with the Waratahs and Rebels. The focus on the breakdown contest in Super Rugby Aotearoa — and the sharp upsurge in penalties — were a cause for concern initially, and were undoubtedly a reason Gardner and his colleagues were utilised during these intra-squad sessions around the country.

Ryan Louwrens holds a rugby ball in both hands and prepares to pass it away from a ruck
New rules around the breakdown have sped up play, but has also seen an initial uptick in penalties.(AAP: Scott Barbour)

“They’re really rewarding speed to the breakdown, I think for us that’s going to highlight our breakdown presence,” Rebels backrower Michael Wells said, his side spending this week of preparation in Canberra to escape the recent spike in COVID-19 infections in Melbourne.

“Attacking wise, you can’t be slow; you have to be really fast. Defensively, if you have a good on-ball presence you’re really going to get pay out of it. I think that was the biggest thing about having Gus [Gardner] here, just to be exposed to those new rules, because it’s different watching it in the New Zealand comp,” Wells said.

But the breakdown focus is having a positive impact already over the Tasman. In half a dozen games over the first three rounds in New Zealand, the rugby on display has been wonderful to watch, no doubt spurred on by huge crowds now allowed with no restrictions in place.

Fans applaud as players line up in the foreground
Super Rugby Aotearoa has returned to huge crowds.(Photosport via AP: Joe Allison)

The crowds will be much smaller when Super Rugby AU kicks off on Friday night, but it’s certainly hoped the rugby is no less exciting. Rugby Australia is also hoping the decision to go a bit further with law variations will have an impact, too.

Several of them roll over from last season’s National Rugby Championship, in which a rampant Western Force ran away with the title. The line drop-out allowance, which rewards the defending team if they’re able to hold the attacking team up in-goal, works as a faster way of restarting play instead of a five-metre scrum that risks multiple resets.

And 50-22 and 22-50 kicks carry over too, borrowing from rugby league’s 40-20, which will force teams to defend differently at the back, as well as open up attacking opportunity.

“Does that open up more space in the front line to play ball in hand?” Rebels attack coach Shaun Berne wondered.

“And if they don’t defend that back field, are we then able to kick and find those 50-22s?”

The players themselves can already see opportunities.

“It’s going to break some teams when we find that space and take those opportunities, it’s going to hurt a lot of teams,” Brumbies centre Irae Simone offered from Canberra.

Waratahs coach Rob Penney loves the removal of calling for a mark in the defensive 22 from kicks originating in the same portion of the field. But he’s equally wary of the architect of the idea.

“I am a bit worried about Matt Toomua and the impact that he is going to have. He is such a talented 10 and he has the ball on a string really,” Penney said of the Rebels and Wallabies flyhalf.

“I thought it was a real breath of fresh air to hear Matt talking about what could be really good for the game.”

A male rugby union player kicks the ball from a penalty goal attempt with his right foot.
Matt Toomua could have a huge impact with his boot under the new rules.(Reuters: Issei Kato)

As Rugby Australia works to negotiate its way to new TV deal for 2021 and beyond, the hope is that these variations and the exciting rugby it anticipates will result will be really good for the game over a longer term. Arguably, the future of the professional game is counting on it.

But the condensed campaign means there won’t be time for the five sides to work their way into contention. Most agree the Brumbies start overwhelming as the favourites, given they were running second overall when Super Rugby was suspended.

Brumbies prop James Slipper says that just means the side is already determined to pick up where they left off back in March.

“It’s always important to start well,” he said.

“We actually addressed that this year in Super Rugby and we did start well.

“What you find is when you have a good start is you try and build on that momentum and that winning habit.”

Super Rugby AU Round 1 fixtures

Friday: Queensland Reds vs NSW Waratahs, Brisbane 7:15pm AEST

Saturday: ACT Brumbies vs Melbourne Rebels, Canberra 7:15pm AEST

Western Force have the bye.



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How one tweak turned the rugby league scrum from joke to scintillating weapon



The scrum in rugby league has gone from embarrassing to unmissable, and it’s only taken six rounds.

No, your eyes are not mistaken. The scrum itself still looks the same.

Unusual for a game that prides itself on physicality, rugby league’s scrum turns forwards into friends. Like 12 men checking to see if that’s a stain on the carpet.

Its decay has led to some, such as commentator Andrew Voss, to campaign for it to be scrapped.

“We either fix it up or we get rid of it,” he told Penthouse magazine in 2017.

“I think it has become such a farce that it just serves no purpose in rugby league.”

But rather than get rid of it, the NRL this season has made it central to the contest.

Not by changing the scrum itself, but by changing where it happens.

Feeding the scrum

Last season 24 tries were scored from scrums, at a little less than one per round, according to NRL.com stats.

Across six rounds this season NRL fans have already witnessed 11. Plus, another two have come on the tackle immediately after the scrum.

Most analysts have been focused on the rule changes brought in after coronavirus, including the move to a single referee and introduction of set restarts for ruck infringements.

But in time for round one this season, the NRL made a change to allow teams to choose where a scrum would be packed.

Most teams are choosing to set them up in the middle of the field, forcing the six players not involved in the scrum to split into two and cover the 30 or so metres on either flank.

The result? Attacking devastation.

Here’s how.

Scrumptious tries

Coaches are relishing this new opportunity and preparing set moves to isolate wide defenders.

Successful plays to the left have found holes for the centre.

While set pieces have prompted bad reads by opposing outside backs.

To the right, some teams have sliced straight through.

While others have executed perfectly.

The left-field option

So far every try scored direct from a scrum this season has originated from the middle of the field.

Year Left Centre Right
2018 20% 53% 27%
2019 17% 58% 25%
2020 so far 0% 100% 0%

Of scrums packed down within the 30 metre line, only three teams are consistently choosing to pack attacking scrums close to the sideline: Canberra, Gold Coast and Parramatta.

And only the Eels have been prepared to pack it down near both touchlines.

Coincidence maybe, but all three times the Eels have lined up with their backline across the width of the field they’ve secured a penalty.

While the centre location for scrums has so far proven the most successful, Parramatta’s experience suggests coaches might not want to abandon the sideline altogether.



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Rugby League’s feelings of international inadequacy laid bare by All Blacks carrot


Drastic times call for drastic measures.

That must be the thinking at the HQs of New Zealand Rugby and the Australian Rugby League, as reports emerged yesterday that both bodies were considering a proposal for a 14-a-side hybrid match between the two flagship teams in December.

It’s not a new idea.

According to New Zealand Rugby boss Mark Robinson, the most recent approach from the Australian Rugby League was as recently as 2017.

And although the likelihood of any match actually getting off the ground was remote for a whole host of reasons, what made this time different enough for Robinson to say it was considering the proposal?

Money, or lack thereof thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

That is the only reason this is being discussed at all, and is the same reason that NRL and numerous other sports leagues were at such pains to return in a variety of constrained circumstances.

The perilous financial state of one of the most famous brands in sport was exposed later on Thursday when New Zealand Rugby announced a total of 40 job losses, 25 per cent of the union’s staff members.

Among a number of All Blacks players and near the goalposts, Michael Hooper raises both hands to the sky and smiles.
A series of Bledisloe Cup matches are on the cards for later this year.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

That was an improvement on the 50 per cent job losses that were predicted in May, but an inevitable result of the forecast $120 million decline in revenue for the current financial year that has only been slightly alleviated by the emergence of the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition.

“We must be very clear that our priority is we want the All Blacks to play international rugby for the remainder of the year,” Robinson said.

“[The Kangaroos match] is one of many different scenarios in a unique year like this that we’re considering with looking to be innovative and having a focus on trying to consider revenue-generating ideas at this time given the financial climate we’re in.”

What would a contest be like?

Cross-code battles are not a new phenomenon, even considering the notoriously frosty relationship between the two codes of rugby.

Historically, hybrid rules were the norm when it came to the early games of football — a tradition that has continued most notably by the AFL and GAA with their intermittently played Gaelic/Australian football matches.

The most famous ‘clash of the codes’ from a rugby context took place back in 1996 in the UK, when Bath and Wigan, the dominant sides in each code took part in a two-match series — one game taking place under each codes’ unique set of rules.

Predictably, Wigan trounced their union counterparts under league rules at Maine Road, before Bath returned the favour at Twickenham under union rules.

Aaron Smith stands next to a scrum between Australia and New Zealand
Union scrums pose a near-insurmountable hurdle for an even cross-code contest.(AAP: David Rowland)

Even then though, union was forced to make concessions due to the technical nature of the sport.

Full, union-style scrums were an impossibility even in the late 90s, justifiably judged to be too dangerous.

Given how much scrummaging has changed in the professional era, it would be madness to even consider throwing inexperienced league props into that bear-pit.

That would be a concession in this hybrid game too.

With early suggestions that it would be 14-a-side, no scrums or lineouts and there would be an eight-phase limit on forward progress, the game would inherently favour league.

League players all for it

A Manly NRL player screams out and pumps his fists as he celebrates kicking the winning field goal against the Sydney Roosters.
Daly Cherry-Evans said he’d love to play against the All Blacks.(AAP: Darren Pateman)

Aside from the admission from New Zealand Rugby that they are investigating the possibility of a match, most of the positive noises appear to be coming from across rugby’s Rubicon.

Kangaroos star Daly Cherry-Evans told NRL.com, “I would love to play something like that. It would be unreal.

“Anything like that where there is an opportunity to grow the game of rugby league, in particular in a time like now, I think is a great idea.”

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga was similarly enthused, highlighting the international implications in his interview with the Courier Mail.

“We want to play the All Blacks, hopefully, we can get the concept off the ground,” he said.

As one of the world’s most recognisable sporting brands, anything the All Blacks did would create headlines around the globe, a reach league is simply not able to harness due to its limited geographic spread in relation to union.

Mal Meninga at Kangaroos training
Mal Meninga wants to see the game happen to expand the reach of the Kangaroos brand.(AAP: Julian Smith)

As such, perhaps it was understandable that interim Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan said he would “not lose sleep” over a cross-code clash, saying he had “bigger fish to fry”.

That indifference, feigned or otherwise, contrasts starkly with the eagerness at which Meninga and Cherry-Evans have appeared to jump onto the bandwagon, which could suggest something of an inferiority complex when it comes to global recognition.

The irony is that international rugby league has never looked better.

Seizing a golden opportunity

International rugby league is, relatively speaking, on the rise — and Australia is best positioned to take advantage of an under-resourced rugby hotspot as a result.

Australian rugby league players look on dejected after losing to Tonga.
The Kangaroos could look to their own code for New Zealand-based opposition.

Not only that, but it is on the rise in the Pacific — the one region on the planet where a coronavirus-free travel bubble could theoretically exist.

It is a region the 15-man code has wilfully ignored for decades.

Fiji, Samoa and Tonga were excluded from the one-time riches of Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship at their inception, and have been similarly ignored in favour of new, more lucrative markets in Japan and South America in the meantime.

That is a pattern that has been reflected in the paltry number of top-level matches the Pacific nations face against top-level opposition between Rugby World Cups.

The All Blacks have played just 18 official Tests in their history against the Pacific triumvirate of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, with just one game taking place outside of New Zealand (and that came as recently as 2015 in Apia against Samoa).

The Wallabies have been more supportive, playing 32 matches against the Pacific nations — although just three of those have been as visitors — with three trips to Suva in the past 67 years of competition against Fiji.

Tonga players embrace after beating Australian in a rugby league Test at Eden Park.
Tonga beat the Kangaroos in just their second ever international meeting in November last year.

League, on the other hand, has recently embraced the Pacific, riding the wave of enthusiasm that has greeted the emergence of the Tongan team and establishing challenge matches between Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Samoa.

That the Tongan team beat the Kangaroos in its last meeting 16-12 at a raucous Eden Park just last year adds value to the rivalry and demands it is further cultivated. Afterall, having more modest global ambitions than union is not necessarily a weakness in the coronavirus era.

Tonga may well be as miffed as New Zealand Rugby League boss Greg Peters, who said, “If the Kangaroos play anybody, we want them to play the Kiwis.”

On the other side of the fence, for the All Blacks, perhaps a better use of its precious resources would be to give the ARU a further, mutually beneficial leg up in the form of extra Bledisloe matches.

After all, the long-term implications for the All Blacks of the Wallabies demise, against a backdrop of the diminishing viability of the trans-continental Super Rugby competition, are far more serious than the potential short-term financial hit any cross-code challenge would provide.



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‘Wait until the last? That’s stupid’: Secrets of rugby league’s field goal revealed


Ten years ago this September, Jamie Soward crushed Wests Tigers fans with a drop goal late in the preliminary final.

It put his Dragons into a grand final they would claim easily for the club’s first and only premiership since the Steelers merger.

While the Dragons of 2020 limp along, the 2010 incarnation was something altogether different.

That field goal was the decisive moment in the run to the premiership, and was one of the biggest one-pointers in NRL history.

How it came together reveals much about the science of the field goal.

The scores were locked at 12-12 in the 73rd minute: nightfall, if field goals were vampires.

Soward remembers staying out of the preceding tackles to calm his nerves and clear his mind.

He directs his forwards down the middle, in preparation for the attempt.

On the last, standing deep, he receives the ball. A crisp strike. One point secured. The lead won.

“If you watch that 2010 field goal,” he recollects, “there is no way that anyone is getting to me before I get a clean shot.”

“The pass from Nathan Fiend is about 17 or 18 metres and it’s right on the money.”

An unusual success

As one of the greatest field goal proponents in rugby league history, Soward knows what he’s talking about.

But for an ordinary NRL kicker, that attempt was an unusual success.

According to analysis of more than 700 field-goal attempts in the NRL since 2013, typically fewer than two out of five are successful.

Location of all NRL field goal attempts since 2013.(Source: NRL.com stats)

On the last tackle, the success rate drops to under one in three.

And from where Soward was, 34 metres out, the rate drops by half again.

One in six, if he’s lucky.

History of the field goal

Rugby league’s rule makers decided to limit the number of tackles in a set during the 1960s.

They didn’t realise they would create a new football superweapon.

Eric Simms, South Sydney’s accomplished fullback became an even more potent attacking force.

He kicked 29 field goals in 1968, then valued at two points a piece.

His impact, along with peers such as Barry Glasgow and Phillip Hawthorne, was so great that another rule change was quickly implemented.

And so in 1971, the modern field goal — worth a single point — was born.

Field position versus tackle count

While kickers generally launch drop-outs at least 50 metres, their success at field goals drops off a cliff beyond 30 metres out.

And the position of the preceding play-the-ball is the major factor.

Relatively few field goals have been kicked when the play-the-ball is outside the 20-metre line.

But Soward himself said he was reluctant to go too close.

Jamie Soward holds a rugby ball in both hands
Jamie Soward retired in 2016 having kicked 26 field goals.(AAP: Brendan Esposito)

“What happens is, in the heat of the moment, referees are trying to watch for so many things, and when you’re in close it means you’ve got defenders coming from outside in,” he said.

Grouping play-the-balls into roughly 4-square-metre clumps demonstrates how often teams will set up around the 15m, to the left of the posts, for a right-footed kicker.

Chart showing locations of play the balls prior to a field goal attempt.
Location of all play the balls prior to field goal attempts since 2013.(Source: NRL.com stats)

It also reveals evidence that kicks from play-the-balls between 10 and 20 metres out, directly in front, are less successful.

The best of the best

Just five players have averaged at least a 50 per cent success rate across attempts since 2013.

James Maloney, who left the NRL to play in Europe at the end of last season, maintained that rate over more than 30 attempts, far higher than the others.

Success rate (%) Attempts Makes, metres out (ave.) Misses, metres out (ave.)
Johnathan Thurston 59 22 22.2 24.4
Chad Townsend 56 18 20.7 27.9
James Maloney 53 34 20.5 30.8
Trent Hodkinson 53 19 21.4 26.1
Sam Williams 50 12 14.6 28.9
Anthony Milford 48 29 24.4 31.8
Matt Moylan 47 17 22.9 31.4
Shaun Johnson 45 29 21.2 25.3
Daly Cherry-Evans 44 39 21.9 29.8
Adam Reynolds 41 41 24.2 34.3
Josh Reynolds 38 13 26.4 26.7
Aidan Sezer 36 25 18.3 28.4
Luke Brooks 36 11 21.1 26.3
Cooper Cronk 35 37 22.2 27.7
Benji Marshall 35 20 16.5 37.5
Gareth Widdop 35 17 17.1 33
Jamie Soward 33 15 32.6 37
Mitchell Moses 32 19 24.6 30.7
Mitchell Pearce 26 23 25.4 27
Ashley Taylor 18 17 27.9 30.3
Todd Carney 18 11 20.4 35.1
Jarrod Mullen 9 11 20 46.2
Ben Hunt 7 14 22.9 32.9

Source: NRL.com Stats; 2013 to round 5, 2020; minimum 10 attempts.

Of today’s players, Soward rates the best game managers as the best field-goal kickers, and singled out Maloney and Daly Cherry-Evans as standouts.

“The best are the guys that understand how to put their teams in position, and usually come up with the play,” he said.

Field goals of the future

Promising Panthers’ five-eighth Matt Burton bounced back earlier this season after his infamous second game, in which he missed five field-goal shots.

Soward believes Burton will become a better player than he ever was, but the former Panthers five-eighth got itchy field-goal feet watching the misses.

“I don’t want to be harsh on him but I thought his ruck recognition on one of the sets was poor,” Soward said.

“They made a break, and he had the perfect time with a retreating defence, to be able to step up and take it.

“Again, the misconception of ‘I have to be back 25 metres’ and all this stuff … you go on the quickest possible play-the-ball.”

Soward, who now records a podcast with former Sydney Swan Nick Davis, is happy to share his knowledge gleaned across 26 field goals.

But he cautions against others copying the approach to his famous 2010 attempt precisely.

“In 2010, how far back I was didn’t matter because I was at the top of my game, but there are times where you need a little bit closer, and to generate play-the-ball speed, someone carrying the ball with a bit of footwork.

“Sometimes you don’t always have to get a deep pass back, you can step up and take it when no-one’s expecting it.”

And he’s clearest on one point.

“Kids these days thinking they have to wait to the last? That’s stupid.”



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English rugby reviewing fans’ singing of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot due to song’s slavery links


England rugby bosses say they are reviewing the singing of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot by supporters due to many fans being unaware of the song’s slavery origins or “sensitivities”.

Rugby supporters have been accused of cultural appropriation in recent years for the customary singing of the song at games played by England’s national team.

The unofficial anthem of the team was originally written by American slave Wallace Willis in the 1860s.

In response to suggestions that the song could be banned by the Rugby Football Union (RFU), an spokesperson said: “The RFU has stated we need to do more to achieve diversity and we are determined to accelerate change and grow awareness.”

“The Swing Low, Sweet Chariot song has long been part of the culture of rugby and is sung by many who have no awareness of its origins or its sensitivities.

“We are reviewing its historical context and our role in educating fans to make informed decisions.”

Supreme talent ... Maro Itoje playing for England against Wales in the Six Nations
Maro Itoje acknowledged the history of the song during a recent interview.(Getty Images: Stu Forster)

Earlier this week, black English lock Maro Itoje told the Daily Mail there was a “complicated” history to the song and the RFU needed to do more to make English rugby “open to all”, but he did not think anyone was singing the song with “malicious intent”.

The song has been sung by supporters of England’s national rugby team since at least the late 1980s.

The first use of the song is believed to have been inspired by black winger Martin “Chariots” Offiah’s appearance with the team at a tournament in Middlesex.



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