One Percenters: Brumbies pay tribute to Shawn Mackay 10 years on

Super Rugby
by Beth Newman, Emma Greenwood and Iain Payten

Saturday night's win over the Reds was an important one for the Brumbies but the post-match celebrations might have proved to be even more significant.

The Brumbies commemorated the 10-year anniversary of Shawn Mackay's passing this weekend, with the 2009 squad reuniting to pay tribute to their former teammate.

Mackay was struck down by a car in South Africa at just 27, leaving the Brumbeis organisation and the wider rugby community reeling.

Names like George Smith and even current Rebel Matt To'omua were among those who made it to GIO Stadium for the tribute, a sign of the role Mackay played in the team.

Even now, the Brumbies still kit out a locker for Mackay at home matches.

That 2009 group stood in the middle of the post-match circle to sing the victory song with Mackay's family also present.

Captain Christian Lealiifano is the only current player who was in Canberra that season and said listening to Mackay's family speak on Saturday night was a poignant experience.

Shawn Mackay's friends gathered to remember the Sevens and Brumbies player 10 years after his passing. Photo: Getty Images"Truly humbling and really, really special," he said.

"I thought - to still be around and continually playing and acknowledging him and seeing the impact he's had on our club and seeing the guys from the past still share stories and celebrate his life.

"It's something that puts things in perspective again and it was really special for me to see them and hear them speak tonight."

Coach Dan McKellar said the organisation would never let Mackay's memory fade.

"I think it's nice for the Mackay family to know that Shawn is a big part of our club and always will be a big part of our club," he said.

"I never knew Shawn but all I've heard is good things about him - that he was a good team man that he loved his time and opportunity that he got here at the Brumbies.

"'Quinzo' makes sure that his locker's always dressed and ready to go.

"I think that's really nice for Shawn's family to know that he'll never be forgotten at our club whether it's 2019 or the years to come. He's an important member of the Brumbies and always will be."

Kerevi's relief as Japan deal becomes public

Relief was as strong an emotion as any for Samu Kerevi when he was finally able to announce on Friday he would head to Japan following the World Cup on a three-year deal with Suntory.

While it’s still unclear exactly when Kerevi signed a contract to link with the Sungoliaths for the next three years, he certainly agreed verbally to the deal early this year.

Most thought Kerevi was waiting for permission from his new club to announce the deal but it turned out it was Rugby Australia and the Queensland Rugby Union, no doubt attempting to broker an 11th hour deal, who had asked the Reds skipper to hold off.

"I kind of wanted it out there but there were other things to do with it," he said.

"There's a lot of business side to it for Queensland as much as RA, the timing of it all.

"The club that I'm heading to is pretty happy with me talking about it - even last week or the week before - it's just  more of the right timing for the whole organisation, which is important to me.

"I was mindful of that and I really just wanted to concentrate on the game as well."

Daley calls it quits, Cooper and Genia keep cards close

Rebels prop Ben Daley has called time on his Super Rugby career after some injury-riddled recent seaons.

Daley, who played for the Reds, the Force and the Rebels in his career, announced his retirement on Instagram this weekend.

While Daley's announcement was pretty clear cut, that of two of his high-profile teammates is not so much.

Rebels flyhalf Quade Cooper and halfback Will Genia are no certainties to be with the Rebels in 2020 and their social media activity has not shed any light

Cooper posted a message of gratitude to his Instagram account on Friday night after the Rebels' finals hopes were dashed, writing that this season had revived his faith in Australian rugby.

Genia posted a somewhat cryptic image of his first Super Rugby season and most recent Super Rugby season, writing, "thanks for the ride".

It's not the first time the scrumhalf has sparked some discussion with a post on his future - the 31-year-old posted what appeared to be a farewell message last year but just turned out to be more of a "see you soon". 

The Rebels have made little secret of their desire to retain the duo but whether the deals will be lucrative enough to stave off overseas options remains to be seen.

Genia would be likely to get some kind of national top-up but  it is unclear whether Cooper would be in that category having been out of the Test fold for the past two years.

New policy paying dividends for Junior Wallabies

Junior Wallabies fullback Isaac Lucas on the fly against Japan. Photo: WalmsleyRugby Australia has copped some flak over benchmarks agreed with all Super Rugby clubs last year to prioritise the Junior Wallabies if their players had not met a threshold of on-field minutes by the end of March.

Reds utility Isaac Lucas played all eight games available to him outside of Junior Wallabies commitments and Queensland had sought for him to enter camp a day late to allow him to play against NSW after a shoulder injury to Hamish Stewart, with the Reds at that stage still a finals chance.

The policy was designed after players were parachuted into past Junior Wallabies campaigns at the 11th hour, leaving little time for the team to gel.

That has not been an issue this season, with U20 coach Jason Gilmore saying the cohesion of his side is a big reason the Junior Wallabies have made the semi-finals for the first time since 2011.

"To build a winning team you've got to be together for a long time, combinations don't come quickly," Gilmore said.

"We had that last year where we had three boys come in, in game three, you've only got one training session and you're expecting the team to gel against New Zealand, which just doesn't happen.

"It's a tough situation because the boys have got their Super Rugby and they've got the junior World Cup as well.

"But the good thing is there was a policy there right from the start, everyone was aware of it and whilst for both sides of the fence, it can be a little bit difficult at times, at the end of the day, there was clarity there."

And while they have progressed further than in recent years, there's no complacency from the Australian team.

"(Winning) Oceania was one of those goals but the second one wasn't to make the semis, the second one was to win it (the U20 world championship).

"Making the semis was great but that's just another process in what we want to do over here."

Frosty no Slowman

As seen with his runaway try against Ireland, Junior Wallabies lock Nick Frost has got genuine wheels for a 205cm forward.

Those who followed his school sports career weren't surprised. 

Frost was an outstanding junior athlete for Knox College, and he won both the 110m hurdles and discus (with a record) at the CAS meet in his last year at school in 2017.

He ran mid-12s for the 100m as a 15-year-old, too. 

Toulouse take out Top 14 title

It's fair to say Rory Arnold will be heading to a successful environment when he departs for France after the Rugby World Cup.

The lock is joining Toulouse next season and that side just became the Top 14 champions.

Toulouse, captained by former All Blacks, beat out Clermont for the title with a 24-18 win in the final overnight.

Ponga hypocrisy laughable

There were plenty in rugby who could barely stifle a laugh at Newcastle Knights boss Phil Gardner issuing a press release saying Michael Cheika's phone call with Kalyn Ponga was "inappropriate" and "extremely disappointing".

And more than a few raised an eyebrow at NRL boss Todd Greenberg jumping onto the same press release with a few tut-tuts of his own.

It's not just the decades-long history of rugby league poaching Wallabies, like Michael O'Connor, Ray Price, Scott Gourley - and we could go on - that makes all the moaning laughable.

Or the dozens of rugby league agents and club scouts sighted at schoolboy rugby matches nowadays, with pro-forma contracts in their pockets.

Or that it's teacup-storm territory anyway given Cheika's phone call was a speccie "if you ever want to play rugby let us know" phone call.

But there are those who remember when the shoe was on the other foot relatively recently and league as a code rolled out the red carpet.

Timana Tahu didn't turn up to a Wallabies camp medical in mid-2009 not because he was injured but he was over at the Parramatta Eels signing an NRL contract.

Later that day then-NRL chief executive David Gallop said this: "We're pleased to see Timana back in our game, hopefully pulling on the blue and yellow."

Tahu had 30 months left to run on his ARU and NSW contract at the time. 

Reds turn down the temperature ahead of Canberra clash

Reds defence coach Peter Ryan employed a novel approach for getting his players ready for the cold they faced in Canberra against the Brumbies on Saturday night.

The Reds handed the Brumbies a drubbing in heatwave conditions at Suncorp Stadium in March, with the Brumbies wilting in near 40C temperatures.

Having just completed a mammoth pre-season in sweltering heat, the Reds were ready.

And Ryan, a former assistant at the Brumbies made sure his players would also be ready for the changed conditions in Canberra.

"This time of year in Canberra is not great but I've got no problem with the cold and I've been walking around throwing ice down blokes' shorts just to get them prepared for the game," Ryan said.

"We've made some steps ahead with technology with ice down the pants, so hopefully it'll lead to a strong game for us."

Ironically, flyhalf Matt McGahan, who grew up in New Zealand, was the only Red who seemed perturbed by the cold, wearing a skin under his jersey.

Gold Blooded tour on the move

The first week of the Classic Wallabies' Gold Blooded tour is nearly over and the group has hit some of Australia's most iconic spots already.

Starting off in Darwin, the tour went to Alice Springs, Uluru and Coober Pedy, meeting some incredible people along the way.

The next week of the journey will take the team down to South Australia, through Port Augusta, the Barossa and into Adelaide.

Keep an eye on the Wallabies' social accounts to see if there's a stop coming up near you. 

Rugby Australia says thanks to Governer General Cosgrove

Former Wallabies flanker Phil Waugh and Rugby AU CEO Raelene Castle were on hand to make a special presentation to Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove this week.

Cosgrove is finishing his time as Rugby Australia's patron and the captains of Australia's national teams penned letters to thank him for his contribution in the position.