Tahs v Brumbies 'a genuine grudge match' - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Tahs v Brumbies 'a genuine grudge match'

By Darren Walton 11/03/2009 08:03:18 PM Comments (0)

NSW fullback Sam Norton-Knight has raised the stakes ahead of Friday night's Super 14 showdown in the nation's capital, declaring the annual Waratahs-Brumbies fixture a fiercer derby than battles with Queensland.

While hostilities between NSW and Queensland have been raging for more than a century, Canberra-born Norton-Knight on Wednesday claimed players now consider Waratahs-Brumbies matches the key interstate grudge match on the Australian rugby calendar.

The Reds have not made the Super playoffs since 2001, during which time the Brumbies have collected two titles and the Waratahs have contested two finals.

"That's the important thing," said Norton-Knight, who played nine games for the Brumbies before linking with the Waratahs in 2006.

"Since I've been here, and probably when I was down at the Brumbies as well, this game has been the local derby that's probably caused most interest from an on-field point of view.

"There's been the off-field stuff with Queensland and they're starting to play some great rugby now, but over the previous five years they probably haven't been where they want to be.

"So this has always been a big game for both teams."

Norton-Knight said the intense rivalry spawned from the early days of Super rugby when NSW rejects were forced to chilly Canberra to get a game.

"When I was down at the Brumbies, a lot of players there were blokes who were overlooked for the Waratahs. So that was a big part of it," Norton-Knight said.

"I know there's a fair bit of animosity between the sides. The Brumbies hated the Waratahs - and I think that attitude sort of permeates through most of the Australian teams, so it's not unfamiliar but it was a game they really targeted."

Waratahs coach Chris Hickey, a former Brumbies assistant, confirmed the bitterness between Australia's two leading franchises.

"I think initially some of that grew from the fact that a lot of the players who went to the Brumbies were players who perhaps weren't offered anything with the Waratahs," Hickey said.

"In the early days, the Brumbies thrived on that concept of being discarded by NSW."

Norton-Knight recalled "huge soul searching" from the Brumbies after they suffered their first and only home loss to the Waratahs in 2005.

Ironically, Norton-Knight's non-selection for the Brumbies' derby in 2005 prompted his move to the Waratahs.

"Looking back now, it was probably something that even swayed me to make the move," the 25-year-old backline utility admitted ahead of his 50th appearance for NSW.

"Fifty has come out of nowhere. It's been interesting. I came up here to play five-eighth, but it hasn't turned out that way. For whatever reason, I've ended back at fullback.

"But I'm really enjoying it this year and getting a lot more comfortable in that position."

The Waratahs received a double boost on Wednesday, with hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, who suffered concussion in last Friday night's 15-11 win over the Reds, cleared to play and No.8 Wycliff Palu (hand) also comfortably completing training.

Hickey said providing Palu suffered no mishaps at Thursday's captain's run he would start.

But prop Al Baxter, who sat out Wednesday's session with a calf strain, remains a 50-50 prospect.

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