Super Round worth a second shot after promising signs in Melbourne

Waratahs teammates deserved better
The NSW women were too gracious to criticise the men for skipping town before their grand final, so let the Herald say what they could not. This wasn’t gender politics, it was about being a footy club and supporting your own, especially the ones who play for free. These women built a five-year stranglehold on Super W, holding down full-time jobs, training three nights a week for three hours at a time, for no remuneration. None.

Natalie Delamere taking the ball up.Credit:Getty

On Saturday they went into the game of their lives, defending their title against the only team to beat them in five seasons, in front of a largely Fijian Australian crowd. And no one in Tahland thought it was an important enough occasion to change a few flights. That’s an abysmal failure of leadership. Sure, the players posted a video on the team ‘socials’ wishing the women well. Then the NSW captain and the Wallabies captain stayed behind in Melbourne and didn’t go to the game. You know what that looks like? It looks like the solidarity was for show, but when the rubber hit the road the Waratahs’ priorities were clear. Tah tough? It wasn’t the Waratahs men this weekend.

Playing in secret to Super W champions
Like the very best fairytales, the Fijiana’s Super W win was built on bravery, grit and the courage to shatter cultural norms. To pull on a rugby boot in the first place, let alone travel to Australia for three months of training, most of the Drua women had to first convince families, parents and village leaders to let them play rugby. Captain Bitila Tawake, the daughter of Fiji Rugby Union chairman and Fiji Navy Commander Commodore Humphrey Tawake, had to start in secret, playing rugby while her parents thought she was studying at university. When they found out, there were some intense family conferences.

Vitalina Naikore and Bitila Tawake celebrate their win.Credit:Getty

“It was really hard to convince my dad to play rugby and I had to put a pause on school to pursue something I really love and something I am really passionate about,” she said. Tawake’s coach Senirusi Seruvakula was blunt, saying after the match that women’s rugby was looked down on and discouraged in Fiji. Bravo to the trail-blazers then, like Tawake and her teammates. “It’s a huge change, it’s breaking the bias too,” she said. “Winning this final has really levelled the playing field for girls and boys back at home. It’s opening many doors for girls and women.”

McReight’s time has come at Test level
Is Fraser McReight the next Michael Hooper or the next Liam Gill? The young Reds flanker was the player everyone was talking about after the Reds’ clash with the Hurricanes on Saturday. On an unforgiving weekend for Australian teams, McReight more than held his own against quality opposition. He is signed with the Reds and Australian rugby until the end of 2023, but is also one of the players whose name comes up any time there is disquiet in Queensland.

Fraser McReight and TJ Perenara wrestling with the ball.Credit:Getty

He is stuck behind Michael Hooper at Test level, an unenviable position akin to Chris Whitaker in the George Gregan era and Gill in the David Pocock era. Wallabies coach Dave Rennie and his team will be keenly aware that Hooper, also off contract after next year’s World Cup, will not be around forever, and they will have to carefully manage the succession plan to avoid losing McReight to Japan or Europe.

The 23-year-old, a two-time U20s player of the year, has played just 32 minutes of Test rugby across two Tests in 2020 and 2021. He will be hungry for more and in the minds of many, including Queensland coach Brad Thorn, he deserves more chances at Test level.

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