Welcome back to the Taylors Wines Top 5, where we keep you up to date with all of the best player stories being told in the media with our weekly wrap, brought to you by our good friends at Taylors Wines (and accompanied by a handy wine tip every edition).
This week sees the Wallaroos and Wallabies head to Perth to take on New Zealand in a double header, the new Optus Stadium expected to break attendance records with the game sold out.
It's the first Double Header of the year for the Men and Women, with both teams again to suit up in Auckland next weekend at Eden Park; click here to see the Wallaroos' team selection, and click here to see who will line up for the Wallabies.
Coverage of both matches starts from 4:50pm AEST on FOX Sports 507, with Channel 10 showing the Bledisloe Cup from 7:00pm.
1. Changing the family colours
There's a new face wearing the Wallaroos' number 9 jersey this week, with Melbourne Rebels scrumhalf Georgia Cormick named in the absence of veteran Cobie-Jane Morgan. After debuting for the Wallaroos against Japan last month, it will be Cormick’s third time in the gold jersey, and with any luck it will cure her once-and-for-all of a disturbing habit formed growing up in an expat Kiwi household in Melbourne.
"I was roped in from an early age,” Cormick tells Rugby.com.au's Iain Payten. "I grew up wearing an All Blacks jersey to Saturday rugby games and trainings and whatnot. There has always been a bit of All Blacks support in our house, I’ll admit it.
"They’re starting to convert now I am in the Aussie squad. This week they’ll definitely be on my side, don’t worry.”
Cormick was born in Dunedin but moved to Australia as a baby with her father Chris and mum Michelle. A Kiwi-forged love of rugby still flowed strongly through the Cormick house after their move and all the kids joined up at the Harlequins club as juniors, including an eight-year-old Georgia. She was the only girl in her team.
"I started in under eights and went through the junior levels,” Cormick said. "I had to stop at age 12, because there was no girls comp back then. That was pretty shattering because I absolutely loved Saturday rugby games.
"I have always had a huge passion for rugby and even when I stopped playing I would always go to my brothers games and be kicking the ball on the sidelines. And I’d watch a lot of games,” Cormick said. "My passion was re-ignited when I was 17. I went along to a talent ID day for the Aussie 7s and I got into a bit of club footy down in Melbourne and haven’t stopped really.”
With a dispensation to play senior footy as a 17-year-old, Cormick joined up with the Unicorns and was soon playing rep footy for Victoria as well. She now plays for Power House. When the Super W arrived in 2018, Cormick was approached by Rebels women’s coach Alana Thomas with a proposal.
"I has played fullback mostly and a little bit of ten growing up but then Alana (Thomas), wanted me to start playing halfback,” Cormick said.
A broken hand saw Cormick sidelined for the second year of the competition in 2019, but coach Dwayne Nestor remained a big fan and the 23-year-old was picked on the bench for the two Japan Tests in Newcastle and North Sydney.
"Being in camp last year, I wasn’t expecting it and it was an awesome experience being there with the girls,” she said. "To be able to get a shot this year has been awesome. I have been loving it so far. To have been given the opportunity to be playing for Australia, it’s amazing.”
2. Mahalia casting her vote on jerseys
Wallaroos and Australian Rugby Sevens star Mahalia Murphy has revealed she and captain Grace Hamilton have been busy submitting individual scores for Indigenous jersey designs that the team will wear in the near future.
After the overwhelming success of the men’s Indigenous jersey, first worn against the All Blacks in 2017 and again at Twickenham last year, Rugby Australia has given the tick of approval for its women's XVs side to wear an original design of their own, likely to be in 2021. Murphy, of indigenous heritage, said it was an honour to be given the task of voting for a jersey design. Sitting next to her laptop at home last week before travelling to Perth for Saturday’s Test against New Zealand, Murphy got the pen and notepad out while assessing 29 different options sent to her via email.
Jerseys were given a mark out of 15 - five points for the design, five for the power of the story and five in terms of how it could be put on a jersey. While there were no perfect 15 out of 15 scores, Murphy said the majority of options provided by the artist, yet to be confirmed by RA, were brilliant and meant a lot to her.
"Myself and Grace had a view of them and had to send in scorecards," Murphy told Fairfax Media's Tom Decent. "So we will crack down and see who has got the most points and go with that one. It’s really awesome to have the design on our jersey because our culture is really strong to this land and there is a beautiful connection between us and this land and the way we nurture the land we walk on. I think it is really important because we are representing this country, not just a state.
"It will add pride to our jersey as well."
3. Coleman back in Gold jersey
There's been no Adam Coleman in the Wallabies' first two matches of 2019, the aggressive lock missing due to a combination of injury and the exceptional form of Rory Arnold and Izack Rodda. Coleman has played just three games in 14 weeks because of injuries, but has finally repaired a fractured scapula and calf niggle to be ready for Bledisloe I where he will feature from the bench.
Coleman has started 29 of his 31 Tests under Michael Cheika because his abrasive style, tackling venom, size and attitude so perfectly suit the coach’s idea of an influential lock. He knows that only performance will get him back to pole position as a starter at the World Cup.
“There’s so much competition within the squad now, not only with the locks but throughout various positions,” Coleman told News Limited's Jim Tucker. “It’s getting to that crunch time where selections are going to have to be very tough for Cheik and that’s a good thing for Australian rugby. Izack and Rory and ‘Simmo’ (Rob Simmons), off the bench, are playing really well so I’m really excited to be back competing.
“Seeing the boys perform (in the 16-10 win over Argentina) gave me that itch to get back into the squad and fight for a gold jersey again.”
4. Hodgey ready to kick on at Optus
Wallabies kicker Reece Hodge could lean on AFL and rugby league mates for advice about Optus Stadium ahead of Saturday night’s Bledisloe Cup clash. Hodge was due to get his first look inside the stadium, where the sideline of the rectangle pitch is up to 40m from the stand, in the captain’s run training session on Friday.
“I know a few people from league and the AFL. I guess it’s good to have connections in other sports,” Hodge told The West Australian's Nick Taylor earlier in the week. “If I go out there on Friday and don’t really get a good grasp of the field and what it’s doing it’s always someone you can lean on.
“We’re lucky that we get free rein on captain’s run day to go out on the field and learn the nuances ... whether you are comfortable with certain boots, which patches of the grass are a bit different. When you are playing on oval stadiums, the touchlines always seem further away than they actually are.
“The space between touchline and the edge of the seating can catch a few guys out in terms of kicking out on the full when you are going for territory.
“You have to adjust your focus, you adapt your eyeline to be able to acknowledge the grandstand is a bit further away than usual.”
Hodge said the Wallabies needed to eradicate turnovers to win their opening Bledisloe Cup clash.
“You’d be mad not to address that part of the game,” he said. “The past couple of weeks we’ve let ourselves down a bit. We’ve forced turnovers with our defence, we’ve handed the ball back to the opposition. That’s a big focus going into the weekend. We know how dangerous New Zealand can be if you let them have loose ball.”
5. Bling keeps Jed in Sydney
Finally, to some great news for NSW Waratahs fans, with the re-signing of gun forward Jed Holloway for a further two seasons (as well as the re-signing of Mitch Short and Chris Talakai).
Getting engaged to his American girlfriend has convinced Holloway to spurn overseas offers and re-sign with the Waratahs for another two seasons. Holloway, who has had already notched 50 caps for NSW, decided Sydney will remain home until the end of 2021 as he plans his wedding to Cayley Miles at the end of next year.
Speaking with Jamie Pandaram in the Daily Telegraph, Jed explained why he decided to stay.
“I did have offers from overseas, and from around Australia, it’s nice to have interest in you but I just wasn’t ready to leave Australia or NSW,” Holloway said. “I’ve established a nice home here, the Mrs and I recently got engaged and if I was to move, I wouldn’t have been able to move straight away so that was a big part of it.
“I have a great balance here with my life away from rugby, which really helps my footy on the field, so I’m happy to be staying.”
Holloway, captain Michael Hooper and hooker Damien Fitzpatrick will be among the senior players of a young group in 2020, with NSW still yet to find a coach after Daryl Gibson surprisingly called it quits after last season.
“Not having a coach is exciting in a way, it’s the unknown,” Holloway said. “I’ll be part of the senior group next season, and I remember when I first came into the Waratahs, how Dave Dennis helped me and a lot of the younger players, I’d like to do the same for the next generation coming through.
“I can talk to them about some of the mistakes I’ve made and hopefully play a part in developing them into good Waratahs.”
And now, for an exclusive tip from our friends at Taylors Wines, and this week we’re talking about Riesling…
Like most of the great grape varieties Riesling is adaptable. Just consider the climatic difference between Germany, Austria and Alsace – it’s ancestral homes - and the Clare Valley, the Eden Valley and Mount Barker in Western Australia - it's three prime spots in Australia. Riesling is arguably Australians greatest white wine in the cellar!