Could 2019 be a tide-turner for Australia in the Super Rugby?

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 03: Andrew Muirhead of the Brumbies makes a line break during the round 15 Super Rugby match between the Brumbies and the Rebels at GIO Stadium on June 3, 2017 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

The Super Rugby competition has kicked off and the National Indigenous Times scanned the Australian team lists to give you a glance at the Indigenous players who will take to the field this year.

There’s some exciting talent to watch out for in all the Australian teams, as they consider their options for taking down the dominant New Zealand teams. Australia had just one side in the finals last year (NSW), compared to New Zealand’s four.

Statistics, forever the most honest depiction of form, suggest there might be change in the air. In 2017 Australian teams collectively won just 27% of their games against New Zealand opposition. In 2018, Australian teams nearly doubled that figure to 45%.

As any university student will know, Ps equal degrees, or in rugby terms, 50% winning percentage equals finals opportunities. Could 2019 be the turn of the tide?

We’ll have to watch and see. What is certain is that the deadly Indigenous talent amongst Super Rugby sides will play a big part in improving our winning percentages.

Here’s who you need to be keeping an eye on this season:

ACT Brumbies

Andy Muirhead – Brisbane, QLD

A lightning quick fullback, Muirhead is also capable of filling into the playmaking positions. He reads the game exceptionally well and is one of the best try scorers for the Brumbies.

His career started exactly as you’d hope. He scored two tries off the bench to help the Brumbies to a much-needed win against Argentina in Buenos Aires in his second match in 2017.

He earned a full contract in 2018 and played the majority of games. He was a bright light in a tough season for the ACT team. He sparked with Henry Speight and Tom Banks in the backline and will be looking forward to pairing with new flyer Toni Pulu.

Rory Arnold – Wagga Wagga, NSW

The 28-year-old lock is one of the tallest players to ever play Super Rugby, at 208cm tall. He is entering his final season at the Brumbies after signing on with French side Toulouse at the end of the Super Rugby season.

He has 19 Wallabies caps along with his 58 Super Rugby appearances, which make him one of the Brumbies most important forward features.

His move to France means he’ll be ineligible to play for the Wallabies again, so he will be working hard for a chance to star in this year’s World Cup in Japan.

He is a star at set-piece, using his height and strength at the lineout to have one of the best winning percentages in the game.

Queensland Reds

Moses Sorovi – Thursday Island, QLD

The Thursday Island scrumhalf signed a new two-year deal with the Reds in the middle of 2018, after making his Super Rugby debut a year earlier.

He is quick to deliver the ball to his playmakers but also confident to take the ball to the line. He is in competition for the scrumhalf position with two others, but has some momentum heading into this season. He played the last nine-games of the year for the Reds in 2018, before starting in every NRC match for Brisbane City.

He’s likely to have some interesting clashes with Wallabies scrumhalves Joe Powell (Brumbies) and Will Genia (Rebels).

Melbourne Rebels

Robbie Abel – Orange, NSW

The former Brumbies hooker has had an interesting 6-months. He left Australia to play for Auckland in their domestic competition at the end of 2018, after only earning 36 Super Rugby caps in the last three seasons. He thought his Super Rugby career was over and was considering a permanent move to New Zealand, before the Melbourne Rebels handed him another life in the top competition.

“Staying in Australia was something I didn’t see or coming to Melbourne was something I didn’t see either,” Abel said.

The 29-year-old joins the Rebels squad on the back of their most successful season yet. The franchise didn’t make the Super Rugby finals last year but increased their winning percentage. It was good timing considering they were chosen to remain in the competition over the Western Force when Rugby Australia made cuts at the end of 2017.

He is the next most experienced Hooker of four in the squad, behind Jordan Uelese, who at 22-years-old has already made his Wallabies debut. Competition for the starting spot will be tough, with the other two hookers – Anaru Rangi and Hugh Roach – hot competition for the first 15.

Abel also has Maori heritage and spent November touring with the Maori All Blacks team in the Americas. He spent four years of his childhood in Melbourne after he was born in Orange, NSW. The hooker will be one to watch.

NSW Waratahs

Cody Walker Bundjalung man (Young, NSW)

The prop from Yamba has had limited game time in his one year with the ‘Tahs. He had a chance to shine in the Global 10s tournament in February last year, six months after he was plucked from the Shute Shield in Sydney to play for the Junior Wallabies.

The 21-year-old has suffered several injuries in his short career, including a broken foot in 2017, but he appears to be fit and ready to back up the first choice props in a talented Waratahs squad.

The injuries tested his motivation in recent seasons but his tenacity is being rewarded now with a contract with the Waratahs. He is likely to do a lot of his work off the bench this year because of his position in the pecking order, but will have a front row seat to learn from Wallaby Sekope Kepu and Tom Robertson.

Kurtley Beale – Mt Druitt, NSW

With over 100 Super Rugby caps, Beale needs no introduction. He’s 30-years-old now but still appears to have a lot of rugby left in him.

He’s the only Indigenous player in the Wallabies setup at the moment after making his debut ten years ago. He has starred in two Rugby World Cups and won the prestigious John Eales medal in 2011.

A season-ending knee injury kept him out of the Wallabies in the 2016-17 season before returning home from England in 2017 to play for the Waratahs.

A controversial video circulated in January, showing Beale playing a vacuum cleaner as a didgeridoo while other people in the room held a plate with white powder. He was not sanctioned in a meeting with Rugby Australia over the video.

Beale will leave that controversy behind to help lead the Waratahs to more success over the New Zealand teams, after they broke a two-year winning drought in 2018.

By Keiran Deck

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