Karmichael helps Gordon claim Mortlock-Baxter Trophy
Karmichael Hunt made a fair old impact in his debut for Gordon in the Shute Shield on Saturday.
The Waratahs centre, returning from an ankle injury, helped the Gordon down fierce local rivals and competition heavyweights North Sydney at North Sydney Oval.
That win saw Gordon claim the Mortlock-Baxter trophy for the first time in a long time, and the Highlanders enjoyed a special team song with club mates on the fence post-game.
In their first season under under premiership-winning ex-Warringah coach Darren Coleman, Gordon are re-emerging from some dark years.
Last year they came last and only won one game but this year they've already had eight victories and are sitting sixth on the ladder with eigh; ahead of the likes of Manly, Easts and Randwick
Coleman raised eyebrows in the pre-season when he said he said a premiership wasn't out of the question this year, and while there's a ways to go, the Gordon faithful are believing again.
Johnson-Holmes belts out Advance Australia Fair
Harry Johnson-Holmes had little time to ponder the opportunity of making his Test debut but the pre-game proceedings took up a big chunk of his thoughts.
A talented singer, Johnson-Holmes joked during the week that he had anticipated being asked to perform the Australian national anthem at Ellis Park.
Alas, he was only required to be a rugby player but that doesn't mean he didn't think long and hard about his anthem strategy.
And, speaking after the match, it seems everything went well in the vocal department.
"Went deep, not too baritone, didn't tap into the falsetto at all, just kept it steady, bit of vibrato," he said.
"Kurtley Beale was next to me, he's pretty good.
"I hadn't heard him belting out something like that in a while, he does a pretty good Khe Sahn but in terms of the anthem, it was incredible.
"To be standing in a line of blokes of such calibre, it was something I could ever envision until I was really there.
"Pretty stoked with how it went, they didn't think I went too bad either."
Slips of the tongue ahead of Test
Almost every rugby coach and team will tell you they're focused on themselves in the lead-up to the weekend's match.
Well, the Springboks and Wallabies are clearly so inward-looking they aren't entirely sure of their opponents' names.
Wallabies centre Tevita Kuridrani was the first with a slip of the tongue, accidentally referring to Frans Steyn as Morne Steyn.
Then, on Friday, Springboks skipper Eben Etzebeth was speaking about the absence of Folau and mixed up Tom Banks with Highlanders utility Marty Banks.
We're sure they're aware of all the threats their opponents pose but maybe next time they should add some name tags to their analysis videos.
Springboks wear Small on their backs.
The Springboks honoured the late James Small in Sunday morning's Rugby Championship test.
The Johannesburg crowd observed a moment's silence before the game but eagle-eyed spectators would also have noticed something different about their jerseys.
Every Springboks' number was filled with images of Small, to pay tribute to the 50-year-old winger who passed away suddenly just under a week ago.
A nice touch from the Boks.
Meakes to get hitched
Congratulations are in order for Aussie women's Sevens player Yasmin Meakes, who got engaged this week. Meakes announced the news on her Instagram account, during a holiday with her fiancé in Bali.
Rugby ranked high on the charity front
Rugby Union has ranked fourth in philanthropic support among Aussie sports after the Australian Sports Foundation this week released its end of year financial report.
The Australian Rugby Foundation (ARF) facilitated $3.8m in philanthropic funding for Rugby in the last financial year via direct contributions and supporting grassroots clubs in their own fundraising efforts, leading to an increase of 44% in donations to the sport on the previous year.
Since partnering with the Australian Sports Foundation, the ARF launched a Fundraising Toolkit in 2018 which was rolled out nationally to provide support to community Rugby clubs, helping to raise funds for everything from uniforms and equipment to oval redevelopment.
State-based fundraising workshops have been held for Rugby Australia's member unions across the country, including at 12 clubs in Western Australia and 22 clubs in Victoria already in 2019.
Return of Petaia creates a buzz
Jordan Petaia wasn't on the ground for long in his return to competitive rugby following an injury layoff of almost five months but his return created plenty of buzz at Brisbane's Chipsy Wood Oval.
Petaia, who was sidelined for almost the entire Super Rugby season while rehabbing a torn ligament in his foot, gained cheers from Wests fans as he ran on against home side Souths in their Queensland Premier Rugby clash on Saturday.
But with momentum swinging against Wests late in the second half, he had few opportunities to be in the thick of the action, something that didn't escape the big crowd on hand for Old Boys' Day.
Cries of "Do something!" were heard across the ground as what little ball the Bulldogs had in the second half went to the opposite side of the field from the star centre, while Souths' late scoring run often involved little opportunity for Petaia to get involved in defence either.
The World Cup hopeful was pummelled when he received the ball from a restart though, drawing plenty of approval from the gathered old boys.
Among their number was another Wallabies squad member in Quade Cooper.
He has not forgotten the lifeline thrown to him by Souths last year when he was banished from the Reds and was spotted in the crowd at Annerley.
Thorn always admired O'Connor as a rival
Interesting comments from Reds coach Brad Thorn this week on why signing James O’Connor to the franchise was not hypocritical after his hardline stance on James Slipper and Karmichael Hunt, who had had their own run-ins with drugs in the past.
While Thorn and O’Connor had crossed paths on the pitch as players, the coach had not met the Gold Coast product formally until he sat down to coffee with him last month ahead of wider meetings with the Reds coaching staff and board members.
But he does remember him from his playing days.
"I first remember him at the Force, he was about 17 and you had a young David Pocock and a young James O'Connor,” Thorn said.
"He was a tiny wee fella, he's bulked up since, but what I noticed about him was he was tough.
"I was a gnarly old player in my mid-30s in the late 2000s and I thought: ‘I'm sure he's got good footwork’, but you can always tell a good player by how hard he'll go to the line and he was a strong little guy and he appeared to have plenty of skill and talent.
"That's a thing that's never been in question with James. It's been that other side of it and it's been a heck of a journey for him - which he says as well.
"I've never known him until now but it can be a really good story because at the end of the day, we all want to see someone reach their potential with footy, but more importantly, as young men.
"He looks like, from every action he's taken, with his contract, everything, the chats we've had and the feedback we've got, you've got a guy who's really determined - sort of like a quiet determination to … I don't know if it's put things right or change the narrative but I just sense there's a hunger there to put that jersey on and do the business.”