One Percenters: Perth fans show spirit at NRC opener

by Sam Phillips and Beth Newman

Perth rugby fans had another chance to show their support for the game on Sunday afternoon, and they filled the hill at McGillivray Oval.

The NRC defending champions Perth Spirit opened their campaign with a win, and the packed hill only added to the atmosphere, Wallabies squad centre Bill Meakes said.

“We knew the hill was going to be full today and everyone was out in numbers. A lot of blue jerseys, a lot of Spirit jerseys and a lot of the kids trying to get their mugs on the big screen. It was a great turnout from everyone," he said.

Meakes said he expected only a positive reception for the Wallabies at nib Stadium next Saturday night, whether the fans are wearing blue or gold jerseys, with Force fans planning on attending in their Force kit as a protest against the ARU's decision to axe their Super Rugby team.

“I think they'll be welcomed with open arms. We've got such a love for rugby here, regardless of who's playing. So I've got no doubt that whether they're wearing a blue jersey or a gold jersey they'll be there in numbers and they'll be supporting the boys. 

A decision on the Western Force’s Supreme Court appeal over their arbitration loss is expected to be handed down this week.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was among the onlookers, giving Meakes and his fellow Test aspirants the chance to push their credentials, having not played a game for competition points in more than a month.

Sevens joining forces  

Collaboration has been the buzz word in Australian rugby this year but it’s not just XVs looking at a more united front.

Australia’s top Sevens minds gathered at ARU HQ this week to discuss the direction of the game, for both men and women, from elite to grassroots.

Aussie men’s coach Andy Friend said the unprecedented gathering would only serve to help the Sevens format grow, as much as preparing for a big season in 2018.

“It's more so important just for the game itself just to make sure we are aware that this brand new sport's hit the scene and we've got the correct pathways in place for boys and girls to be able to play the game, men and women to be able to play the game and just get the growth of the game happening,” he said.

“For the World Cup and for Olympic Games, it's just for us it's a real comfort knowing that more people are going to be playing it and more people we can choose from.

Australia’s men went bush last weekend as they get stuck into preseason proper, set to be part of an invitational tournament in Munich next month, before a trio of local tournaments leading into the 2017-18 World Series.

“We've got a three-week window now to build up before we head to Munich for the Oktoberfest 7s,” Friend said.

“We'll take a solid squad over there and then come back and we've entered the Noosa, Central Coast, San Jose and Oceania tournaments before the World Series kicks off in December.”

The Aussie women are set to take their training location to Sydney’s north shore, with the squad to work out of Sydney’s Pymble Ladies’ College on Monday, and coach Tim Walsh to pitch in with the school’s side.

The stint will precede a trip to Bendigo where the Aussie women will play Japan and a local regional team, after the completion of the inaugural Uni7s.

Another chip for Chucky

James Stannard provided one of the stranger moments of the 2016-17 World Series when he lost a tooth in London.

The Sevens larrikin hasn’t managed to keep a full set for long, though, losing another chomper to the footy field in Mackay recently, while the squad was training and playing in a preseason tri-series with Japan and a Queensland regional squad.

Twitter timewarp

Matt Giteau and George Smith have found their way back together in the Japanese Top League and the former Wallabies centre couldn't resist sharing a throwback of the pair this week.

Giteau shared a pic on Twitter of the duo at the beginning of their Test careers, with the Canberran sporting his trademark bleached tips as they signed Wallabies jerseys more than a decade ago.

Cherry on top of Olympic gold

The success of the Aussie women’s Sevens has led to plenty of namesake competitions and the first Emilee Cherry Cup became the latest of those.

The inaugural winners were the Toowoomba Bears, with the Aussie gold medallist on hand to deliver the prize.

Sydney Rays hit by injury

The Sydney Rays have lost two of their key players ahead of the NRC starting with Cam Clark and Michael Wells ruled out of their provincial campaign.

Clark made his way back to XVs via the Rays last season, but will not play NRC in 2017, set for a shoulder reconstruction, with the injury only detected after the Shute Shield grand final.

Another former Sevens player, Wells, has taken some major steps in 2017, becoming a regular starter at No.8 for the Waratahs and also helping Norths to their second straight premiership decider.

Wells ruptured a tendon in his hand in that grand final, while a foot problem has reared up again after interrupting part of his Super Rugby season.

Goro still a Japanese hero

Ayumu Goromaru’s Australian stint was a fizzer and his time at Toulon even more so, curtailed by injuries and poor form, but the Japanese fullback is still a hero in his home country.

Playing for Yamaha in his 100th Top League game, Goromaru was mobbed by fans at his first home game since his 2015 Rugby World Cup heroics and overseas stints.