Drew Mitchell called time on his playing days via Twitter on Monday, bringing to a close a long and very successful career in which he earned 71 caps for the Wallabies.
So, how high does Mitchell rate in the ranks of the greatest wings to wear the green and gold jersey since the 1980s?
5. Lote Tuqiri
Tuqiri, alongside Israel Folau, represent two of the most successful converts from rugby league to union. Tuqiri’s pace and power made him one of the most dangerous backs in world rugby and led to him scoring 30 tries in 67 matches.
He scored a total of six tries in the 2003 and 2007 World Cups, including one in the final defeat to England in 2003. Tuqiri’s incredible natural athleticism probably should have seen him higher on this list but his career was a tale of talent not completely fulfilled as he mixed breathtaking on-field play with off-field incidents and misdemeanours.
4. Drew Mitchell
When Drew Mitchell announced his retirement and the statistical summations of his career began to roll, many rugby fans, including myself, probably had a few WTF existential moments. He’s 33? He had 71 tests? He scored 14 World Cup tries? Where did the time go?
Mitchell was a consistent, powerful presence on the left wing and arguably saved his best form for last in the 2015 World Cup when he scored four tries and was second overall in defenders beaten behind Santiago Cordero. He scored 34 tries in his eleven-year international career, including five against the All Blacks and four against South Africa.
3. Adam Ashley-Cooper
The ultimate Mr Fixit of Australian rugby, Adam Ashley-Cooper was never the most powerful or fastest wing to represent Australia. However, he is hugely competitive, strategically smart and brave. His versatility meant that he was often used as cover in midfield, fullback or wing.
He has scored the most tries out of all players against the All Blacks (nine), including seven in New Zealand and 13 tries in the Rugby Championship. He often picked big moments to pounce, such as his hat-trick in the 2015 World Cup semi-final against Argentina. AAC has scored 37 tries in 116 matches for the Wallabies.
2. Joe Roff
Joe Roff was an electric, pacy runner who lit up Australasian rugby during one of its most successful eras in the late ’90s and early ’00s. Although he ‘only’ scored 30 tries in 86 tests, Roff’s consistent brilliance was an integral component of John Eales’ side who won the World Cup in 1999 and Tri Nations titles in 2000 and 2001.
In the same year, he scored two crucial tries against the touring Lions, which effectively swung the momentum of the series to the men in green and gold.
1. David Campese
David Campese or ‘Campo’ was the eccentric genius of world rugby who introduced us to the goose-step. Although he had a few moments of madness, such as against the Lions in 1989 when his blunder cost his side the match and ultimately the series, his brilliance and inventiveness far outweighed these blips throughout his career. One of these moments was his try and then miracle no-look pass to set up a try for Tim Horan in the 1991 World Cup semi-final against the All Blacks.
Campese was subsequently named as World Player of the Year in 1992. In his career, spanning from 1982 to 1996, he scored an astonishing 64 tries in just 101 tests and held the world record for international tries until Daisuke Ohata of Japan overtook his total. One of the true greats of World Rugby, Campo’s magic showed the world the range of possibilities of attack in rugby, and inspired many imitators and innovators.
Honourable Mentions: Ben Tune, Wendell Sailor, Digby Ioane, Clyde Rathbone, Stirling Mortlock.
Kaal Kaczmarek, Pundit Arena
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