Who’s hot and who’s not: Michael Hooper bravery, Malcolm Marx shines, All Blacks struggle and commentary disaster

Adam Kyriacou

It’s time for our Monday wrap of who has their name in lights and who is making the headlines for all the wrong reasons after the weekend.


Michael Hooper bravery: We found it staggering that even a minority of so-called rugby fans criticised Hooper for his decision to move himself away from the spotlight ahead of Australia’s opening Rugby Championship game against Argentina. Personal reasons that hinted at mindset struggles for the Wallaby legend led to Hooper making the brave call to first contact team doctor Sharon Flahive before the careful process ended with the captain informing his team-mates. To make such an honest call in a high pressure environment is admirable and it’s clear Hooper will get all the support he needs from Australia as he flies home. We wish the back-row the very best and commend his bravery.

Malcolm Marx: Although the entire Springbok pack deserve a mention after a dominant performance at Mbombela Stadium against the All Blacks, their hooker earns special praise after an excellent all-round display. It was a momentous match for the 28-year-old as he was making his 50th Test appearance and delivered a fitting performance for the occasion. Marx was a willing ball carrier and stood out in the execution of his core duties but made his biggest impact with his work at the breakdown, winning four turnovers during his 54-minute stint on the field. It came as no surprise that the hooker walked off with the official man-of-the-match award after the game. Well done, Malcolm!

Women’s ticket sales soar: The Lionesses’ Euro 2022 triumph has clearly had a positive impact, not just in football but also in other sports as the Rugby Football Union revealed that ticket sales for their matches in September have soared. The fixtures, against the USA and Wales, have apparently shot up by over 100% following England’s 2-1 extra-time win over Germany, which is fantastic news for rugby and women’s sport in general. The vibe at the Euros was noted for its family friendly feel and while rugby union tends to produce a similar environment at grounds, the hope is that more girls are in attendance and are subsequently inspired to take up the sport by seeing positive, healthy role models.

Contract boost for Irish Women: The good news for Women’s sport just keeps on coming after the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) announced it will offer 43 centralised contracts to elite women’s players next season. The deals, which include agreements already in place for members of the women’s sevens programme, have been benchmarked internationally and will be worth up to 30,000 euros (£25,234), plus match fees and bonuses. The IRFU also confirmed the appointment of Gillian McDarby as the new head of women’s performance and pathways. The two announcements are a strong signal of intent from the governing body to grow the Women’s game and it’s excellent to see.

Wallabies’ spirit in Mendoza: After such a difficult 24 hours, one has to applaud how Hooper’s teammates rolled up their sleeves to win for their captain. Trailing 19-10 at the break, the Wallabies fronted up and got the job done with a bonus point to boot as they kicked off the Rugby Championship with a perfect result on the road. Hooper’s replacement Fraser McReight filled in superbly as he powered over for one of four second-half scores, adding to Jordan Petaia’s effort on 18 minutes. Many had feared for Australia due to their long injury list and the absence of their skipper, so to stand up and beat the Pumas on their own patch in front of a passionate crowd deserves a good deal of praise.


Disappointing All Blacks: It is now three losses in a row for the once mighty All Blacks and if you track further back it is five defeats in their last six outings. That’s dire form for the three-time Rugby World Cup winners and one fears things won’t get any better this Saturday when they face the Springboks again at Ellis Park. As our takeaways piece mentioned, it felt like “men against boys” in Mbombela as the All Blacks struggle to land a blow on their hulking opponents, much like the closing Tests against Ireland in July. You have to be concerned for head coach Ian Foster and captain Sam Cane after that opening Rugby Championship fixture as the writing looks on the wall when they return to New Zealand.

Commentary for Argentina v Australia: For those listening to the non-Australia broadcast of the Pumas v Wallabies clash, you’ll know what we are talking about here. The monotone commentary from two Argentines lacked any passion whatsoever and was incredibly difficult to listen to as it became a huge topic of discussion on social media. Even when the Pumas scored a try the double act struggled to display any excitement before the final stages reached a new low. First the pair were unaware of the three clear tries bonus-point rule, then they got the last Wallabies try-scorer wrong before it was a disaster during the ensuing TMO decision, which ended with many wrong scorelines given. Presumably, they were handed the responsibility of describing the action for the world feed, but it is a very difficult job to do, let alone in your second language, so it rather raises a few questions. Were they experienced at the job and was it really better to get native Spanish speakers for the English language feed? In many ways, we feel really sorry for the two who were given that role because they shouldn’t have been put in that position. Questions need to be asked of the people that made the decision to hire them.

Samu Kerevi injury: The Wallabies’ chances in this year’s Rugby Championship suffered a massive setback with the news that Kerevi will miss the rest of the season after sustaining a serious knee injury while on Sevens duty for Australia at the Commonwealth Games. Although he was set to miss his country’s opening Rugby Championship Tests against Argentina, the 28-year-old would have walked into Australia’s starting XV for the vital games against the Springboks and All Blacks as he’s a genuine world-class player. Dave Rennie has said he doesn’t regret the call to allow Kerevi to play Sevens but he might feel differently at the end of the Rugby Championship.

Kurt-Lee Arendse’s reckless red card: South Africa richly deserved their victory as they dominated most facets of play but the result was soured by Arendse’s dismissal in the closing stages for a dangerous aerial challenge on Beauden Barrett. Up to that point, the Boks’ diminutive wing had a memorable game as he shone on defence and attack while also crossing for his first Test try. However, referee Angus Gardner had little choice than to show him a red card as his hit was dangerous and led to Barrett landing on his head. Thankfully the All Black had no fractures.

Durham Sharks on the brink: In stark contrast to all the positivity emanating throughout women’s sport at the moment, DMP Durham Sharks find themselves in a fight to avoid the prospect of sudden extinction from the Allianz Premier 15s, with an emergency crowdfunding campaign launched. The Darlington-based outfit have been involved in the women’s top flight since the league’s inception in 2017, but are facing a shortfall of what they estimate to be about £50,000 to cover basic running costs necessary to stay alive. Let’s hope they manage it.

READ MORE: Sunday Social: All Blacks lose again and support pours in for Wallabies captain Michael Hooper