THE INSIDE BACK
Absent ... Dan Vickerman has been largely unavailable for the Waratahs this season. Photo: Steve Christo
It might be a disappointing Tour de France for Australians Cadel Evans and Matt Goss but that hasn't stopped the ACT Brumbies celebrating the race. As part of the side's Mad Monday celebrations, the players dressed up for a Le Tour theme party at an infamous Canberra watering hole in honour of departing players Ben Hand and Anthony Hegarty, who will both play in France next season. Neither tacks nor tact made an appearance but it's safe to say anyone who stumbled upon the bunch would be thinking twice about ever harassing a cyclist. So confident was the ACT side of making the finals that administration had released an application for fans to order tickets for what was presumed to be a home final this weekend. It's a disappointing end to an otherwise brilliant season.
While a shock loss at home to the Blues ended their charge to the Super Rugby final, the news isn't all bad for Brumbies players, with coach Jake White set to take the team on a two-week trip to his home patch of Cape Town. The Brumbies not involved in the Wallabies train-on squad will enjoy their annual holidays over the next month before pre-season training for next year begins in August. That will include a trip to South Africa, where White hopes to line up some matches for the team against local opponents.
There was no apparent theme for the Waratahs' Mad Monday commiserations, although that is not to say the players were any less spirited. After a few beers following Saturday's disappointing loss to the Reds, the Tahs returned home yesterday and descended on the Clovelly Hotel, where we're told they behaved in a jovial yet orderly manner. Coach Michael Foley's instructions to the team before they flew the coop: take care of yourselves and each other. The entire team has been given the next week off but a number of players - including prop Paddy Ryan and wing Lachie Turner - have chosen to play Shute Shield for University and Eastwood respectively. Both players, who only recently returned from injury, have been named in Robbie Deans's Wallabies train-on squad that will gather in Sydney next Monday. And given their lack of match time, both have decided to continue their returns at club level.
In absence of Dan
One last thing on the Waratahs and their season from hell. While former Wallabies captain Rocky Elsom has been a constant target for fans and critics alike this year because of the injured flanker's lack of game time and value to the team, little has been mentioned of Dan Vickerman's contribution, or lack thereof. Vickerman was signed by the Waratahs late last year on bigger money than Elsom, and hasn't played a single game this year and has rarely been sighted at training. Meanwhile, if Michael Foley does not see out his contract, is Michael Cheika really the must-have coach? Sure, the former Randwick player won a Heineken Cup with an all-star Leinster side featuring Elsom and a host of internationals but in two seasons at Stade Francais his side's highest finishing position has been seventh. That's not to say the big guy can't coach; he clearly can. But is he the only man for the job?
It wasn't long ago that Layne Beachley was pulling faces behind Stephanie Gilmore as the Coolangatta surfer collected her fourth world title trophy at an ASP awards night. Well, a year is a long time in surfing, and it seems the rift between the seven-time world champion and now five-time champion Gilmore has been mended. Beachley's last two seasons on tour were dominated by Gilmore, and the veteran seemed to take issue with Gilmore's determined attitude and how quickly the youngster was lauded as the best ever. But now, at 40, Beachley has taken the philosophical approach. "I'm really proud of the legacy I created, and I'm looking forward to Steph creating her own one,'' Beachley told The Inside Back. ''I couldn't have done what I did without my predecessors, and the same goes for Steph. When Steph won her first world title she came out claiming she could win 10 of them. And now, after seeing her perform this year, I don't see what's going to stop her, to be quite honest.''
Either Quade Cooper is the most popular person in Australia or the former Wallabies five-eighth is yet another high-profile personality guilty of buying Twitter followers. Former prime minister Kevin Rudd was accused of buying Twitter followers after his count shot to more than 1 million last year. And Cooper's count has recently raised suspicion after he jumped from about 120,000 followers to register more than 603,000 in the space of a season - for most of which he has been injured. To put those numbers into perspective, James O'Connor - who has a larger public profile thanks to commercials - has 190,000 followers while Adam Ashley-Cooper has about 28,000. Even more intriguing is that Cooper has more followers than television and radio's highest rating comedy duo Hamish & Andy (382,000), 11-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater (212,000), Socceroo and Everton striker Tim Cahill (406,000) and the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard (250,000).