As the fireworks began and the Brumbies players celebrated after defeating the Queensland Reds on Saturday night, I couldn’t help but be reminded of their previous victories in finals matches. This felt just as good.
The main difference from the previous finals was that the opposition throughout the re-started series was confined to Australian teams because of COVID-19.
For the players though, it had a finals-type build-up between two sides with an established rivalry. There was plenty of pre-game hype and the 6000 tickets were snapped up quickly.
The final itself was as intense as any of the previous six involving the Brumbies. The game was hard-fought and enthralling.
At full time, there was a sense of relief to have won and the celebrations commenced.
But after the grand final the inevitable question was coming up in many conversations: how would the Brumbies have fared had the New Zealand sides been involved in the competition? Interestingly, there was little to no mention of South African or Argentinian teams.
On the issue of the New Zealand teams, prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, the Brumbies more than held their own against the Kiwis with a win over the Chiefs and a narrow loss to the Highlanders.
However, the Brumbies didn’t get to play the Crusaders this year and it was the Crusaders who won the revamped New Zealand competition by virtue of finishing on top of the regular season. They didn’t hold a finals series in New Zealand.
And then because of COVID-19 it was deemed it wasn’t possible to schedule a game between the Australian and New Zealand winners.
If we take a step back and examine results prior to COVID-19 and translate these to the present, it is possible to argue that the competition would have been very close. Prior to COVID-19 the Reds were competitive but went down to the Crusaders 24-20 in March, then the Brumbies beat the Reds by five in September. There clearly is not much difference between the teams at the top.
As I have stated, we are dealing with what might have been, and there are many variables that can’t be anticipated in this hypothetical situation. But it’s worth looking at the merit of this Brumbies team and how their victory will be judged.
Defensively they are as good as any Brumbies side. They didn’t have the experience of a George Smith at the breakdown, but the physicality was definitely there for all to see.
There was no George Gregan, Steve Larkham or Joe Roff equivalent, or the presence of Rory Arnold. But there were players in this current Brumbies team who would fit straight into the great teams of the 2000s.
For a start there’s Tom Banks at full-back. Noah Lolesio has the potential to be one of the Brumbies’ greatest players, while I would back Tom Wright on current form over most. Additionally, Tevita Kurindrani is one of the best defenders I have seen at 13.
There is plenty to like about the way they play under the game plan of the coaching staff, led by Dan McKellar, with a flamboyance that echoes the glory days.
And there was plenty of emotion within the team, having been in a quarantine bubble for so long, and with a number of key players such as Joe Powell, Tevita Kurindrani and Lachie McCaffrey expected to depart to other teams.
Make no mistake, this Brumbies team is a good one, featuring no less than 13 players selected in the Wallaby train-on squad.
But it may take time to process exactly where it sits in Brumbies history. Perhaps the upcoming Bledisloe Cup will provide a glimpse into what might have been.
Tim Gavel is back with the latest Region Media sports wrap, and it’s a biggie. He's with Brumbies Rugby coach Dan McKellar to get the lowdown about the local side's fantastic Super Rugby grand final win and bring you all the other results from around the grounds. It’s proudly brought to you this week by Bayldon Ag.
Posted by The RiotACT on Sunday, 20 September 2020