Top 5: Legends, Two Blues and $1m props

    Here are the five CODE Sports rugby stories that most resonated with readers in 2022.Tom Carter’s polarising rugby careerTom Carter knows what people thought of him as a rugby player. He shared his lone regret and his remarkable journey since with BRENDAN BRADFORD.Tom Carter laughs when asked about his reputation as one of the most polarising figures in Australian rugby.He knows exactly what most people thought of him during his playing days.And he admits he didn’t help himself with many of his on-field antics, including a bit of niggle and frequent sledging.Round 1 of the 2012 Super Rugby season sticks out.The Waratahs are holding on to a 21-18 lead over reigning champions, the Queensland Reds. With under a minute on the clock, Carter hits Reds winger Digby Ioane, who loses the ball forward on the halfway line.Standing over Ioane and with the game surely in the bag, Carter gives the Reds and Wallabies winger a mighty spray, gesticulating wildly as he does so.Then …Read more of this story hereMatt Dunning’s struggle with life after rugbyHe’s one of Australian rugby’s most celebrated characters but Matt Dunning’s transition into retirement took as much work as his career, wrote BRENDAN BRADFORD.Matt Dunning had to hand it to his Waratahs teammates at the end of the 2003 Super Rugby season. They’d acted fast in organising their Mad Monday attire.Just two days earlier, the burly prop had kicked the unlikeliest drop goal you’ll ever see against the Chiefs, which ultimately sunk the Tahs’ hopes of making the semi-finals.Needing four tries to secure a bonus point and a place in the top four, the Tahs had scored twice, and were up 17-14 against the Chiefs with 12 minutes remaining at the Sydney Football Stadium.The Chiefs infringed as the Tahs rolled downfield and the ball came back to Dunning. With advantage being played, he had a crack at the sticks, assuming he’d miss and the Waratahs would kick for touch in search of a third try.“That’s just what you did!” Dunning laughs now. “You try a field goal when you’ve got an advantage. George Gregan used to do it all the time.”An off-balance Dunning swung a big right boot at the ball, and instead of it sailing away to the side or rolling harmlessly along the ground, the Gilbert flew directly between the posts.As bewildered teammates asked him what he was thinking, Dunning dropped his head into his hands, wondering the same.Read more of this story hereWhy Tupou and Bell can make Australia’s scrum the bestThe memory of Australia’s scrum being buried at Twickenham in 2005 still lingers for some. But with two of world rugby’s most exciting and in-demand big men, the Wallabies finally boast a rarely seen weapon, wrote CHRISTY DORAN.Australia’s scrum is on the same trajectory as North Korea’s military. It’s becoming a weapon.“I wouldn’t want to say we’re going to be unbelievable in the years to come, but it’s going to be one of our top three strengths in the team,” South African-born Wallabies scrum coach Petrus du Plessis says.Where once the Wallabies backline was the envy of the world yet more than once went to waste behind a sub-par set-piece, the green and gold scrum looms as arguably Australia’s greatest on-field threat.With two emerging giants of the game in Taniela Tupou and Angus Bell, as well as the consistency and strength of regular first-choice props James Slipper and Allan Alaalatoa, the Wallabies boast front-row resources the likes of Eddie Jones and John Connolly could only dream of.Provided Australian rugby can afford to keep him, the ‘Tongan Thor’ is set to become Australia’s next $1 million man.Read more of this story hereFor love, not money: Women’s rugby at a crossroadsAdiana Talakai goes straight to training from a shift as a labourer. Around her, athletes who are also police officers and bar-workers do the same. But it’s worth it to play for the Wallaroos, wrote TILLY WERNER.Adiana Talakai has just come off a nine hour shift of labouring. Brick dust covers her hair as she approaches the sheds at UNSW. She hasn’t yet swapped out her steel caps for boots or the fluoro vest for the Waratah red and blue of her training gear.There’s something she has to do first.At the beginning of every Super W NSW Waratahs training session, the players gather in a circle.Police officers, nurses, bar-workers, labourers. They wear different hats through the night shifts and long days but as they sit, staring, opposite their teammates, ready to divulge their woes, the frustrations are similar.“We have a thing called the ‘expression circle’,” Talakai tells CODE Sports.“We all acknowledge each other‘s tough days at work, we’ve come from 10 hour shifts. Some players have finished their night shifts as police officers and have to drag themselves to training which is mentally pretty exhausting.”Read more of this story hereBehind Western Sydney Two Blues’ miraculous rugby revivalAfter Shute Shield wins against Gordon and Sydney Uni, the once-faltering Two Blues are proving that their rebuilt foundation is creating a western Sydney powerhouse, wrote BRENDAN BRADFORD.Western Sydney Two Blues coach Sailosi Tagicakibau was enjoying a well-earned beer on Saturday evening when his phone rang.Earlier in the day, Tagicakibau’s first grade side had scored the biggest upset of the Shute Shield season by defeating Sydney University 27-19. It was the first time the Two Blues had beaten the Students in more than two decades, and followed up a surprise 25-15 win over 2020 Shute Shield champions Gordon a week earlier.So, Tagicakibau was enjoying that quiet schooner when he saw Waratahs coach Darren Coleman’s name pop up on his phone as an incoming call.Coleman, or DC, also had reason to celebrate. His unfancied Waratahs side, paying $15 before the match, had just knocked off the all-conquering Crusaders 24-21 at Leichhardt Oval.With DC on the team bus and Tagicakibau at the pub, they shared in each other’s success.Read more of this story here

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