2016 biggest storylines: Super Rugby cleanouts

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

As 2016 ticks down, rugby.com.au is looking back at some of the biggest moments and storylines of the Australian rugby year.


Super Rugby cleanouts

It was a big year in the life of Super Rugby coaches, with three franchises installing new faces at head coach in 2016.

Daryl Gibson will lead the Waratahs for the first time. Photo: Getty ImagesDaryl Gibson took over the Waratahs’ reins from Michael Cheika at the start of the season, the first to take his team into a new era, ushering in NSW’s next generation.

Gibson was an assistant under Cheika but stepped up into the head role for the first time and after a rocky start, the Waratahs showed exactly their potential in one of the season’s best performances, a win against the Chiefs.

The first casualty was Richard Graham, dismissed after just two matches of the Super Rugby season, after the weight of poor results reached a critical point, with just a 28 per cent winning record over his seasons at the franchise.

Graham’s departure led to the appointment of co-coaches Matt O’Connor and Nick Stiles, with the latter ultimately winning the race to lead the franchise in 2017.

Stiles will oversee the return of Wallabies captain Stephen Moore to Queensland and Quade Cooper’s homecoming, as well as Test centurion George Smith joining the Reds, while admitting the turnaround must be swift.

Michael Foley’s departure from the Force was not dissimilar to Graham’s, though it was met with an intriguing reaction from players who still had faith in him, despite the numbers not adding up.

The Perth side went internal for their next appointment as well, with assistant Dave Wessels taking the interim lead before being signed to steer the coach from next season.

Dave Wessels will be Force head coach for the next two seasons. Photo: Getty ImagesWessels moved quickly to sign on a handful of new players, with the Force’s future under constant speculation as SANZAAR reviews the Super Rugby format.

The Brumbies won’t be far behind in adopting a new mentor, with Stephen Larkham officially committing himself to the Wallabies full-time after the 2017 season, meaning Tony McGahan might be the only 2015 head coach still in the same role this time next year.

2016 Top 10 biggest story lines look back

Number 10 : Sydney Bledisloe

Number 9: Wallabies' generation next

Number 8: Global player routes