Will Miller & Hugh Sinclair: Our Super Rugby experience so far

Six weeks ago, Super Rugby was the furthest thing from Will Miller and Hugh Sinclair’s minds as they began their Shute Shield title defence with Northern Suburbs. But a string of backrow injuries saw the pair both called into the Melbourne Rebels squad in the same week. After extending their contracts for a further month, Rugby News caught up with the pair to hear about their Super Rugby experiences so far.

Rugby News: When you started the season with Norths, did you ever think you’d be playing Super Rugby this year?

Will Miller: Not really to be honest, it was a pretty big surprise. I didn’t really keep up to date with all the injuries down in Melbourne but when I did hear something, I heard they were looking for a No.6/No.8 and I knew that wasn’t me. Fortunately, Hughy got an opportunity first and then I got a call not long after.

Hugh Sinclair: I certainly didn’t expect it. We knew that all the squads were filled at the start of the year and we were happily plugging away with Norths but when I did get the call, I jumped at the opportunity.

RN: Will, is it true you found out about your opportunity in the Norths’ sheds after a match?

WM: Yeah, one of the boys works with a player manager and he told me to expect a call and that they were going to take me to South Africa and a week later we were on the plane, so it all happened pretty fast. I got a call on the Sunday and I was down there on the Monday.

RN: What was it like entering a Super Rugby environment midway through the season?

WM: I think I was probably a little underdone. It was only the start of our season and the rest of the boys had a full pre-season under their belts. We’d only played three games all year so we had a bit of catching up to do but it was great to just focus on rugby and not have to worry about everything else for a while.

HS: All the boys welcomed us straight in and I think it was made easier because Will and I went down together. It would have been a little more difficult to do on your own. We just got straight into it. Calls, patterns, plays, we were straight on the paddock training with the squad and we both just wanted to show what we could do. It’s been great to experience the professionalism of it all with the gym facilities, video analysis, the training fields and coaches are right there all the time.

RN: Did you know straight away that there was a good chance that you would get some game time?

HS: The first week was the Brumbies game and they were still waiting to hear about a few injuries, Jake Schatz still had a dodgy knee and I wasn’t sure if I would be playing or not. Later in the week I found out I was going to be on the bench, so it was a bit of a whirlwind couple of days trying to learn all the calls and everything. Unfortunately I didn’t get on in that game but it was still great to be involved in the build up and to see how everything works.

RN: It must have been quite a thill to find out you were both going on the South Africa tour?

WM: They told us on the Thursday before the Brumbies game that we were going to South Africa and it was pretty exciting because I knew that there was a good chance that I was going to start with Colby (Fainga’a) staying in Australia. It was exciting but pretty nerve wracking at the same time.

RN: You’ve both been trying to pick up a Super Rugby contract for a few years now, can you believe that you were both picked up by the same club in the same week?

WM: It’s pretty bizarre. We both started at Norths around the same time and have played most of our footy together in recent years so it was great to take the next step together. It was probably pretty lucky as well, as Hugh said earlier, because we could go over things together and pick each other’s brains.

RN: How were the nerves before that first game?

WM: I was pretty bad.

HS: He was shitting bricks.

WM: I didn’t get anytime off the bench the week before, I went straight into the starting team against the Sharks. I remember every five minutes felt like forever leading into the game. It was later in the day as well so we had a lot of time to sit around and think about it. I tried to keep my mind off it but it was pretty nerve wracking.

RN: Will, you were penalised late in the match, which led to a Sharks penalty goal. What was going through your head after that?

WM: Yeah, I thought I’d lost us the game so it wasn’t great.

RN: But you managed to go down the other and cause a penalty, which led to the 9-9 draw. That must have felt pretty good?

WM: Yeah that felt pretty good. It would have been better if it was for a win but I just felt I needed to make up for the mistake I made earlier.

RN: Hugh, how were your first few minutes?

HS: It was exciting. As the clock ticked away, I wasn’t sure it I was going to get on again or if I was going to sit on the bench for another 80 but it was great to get on there. I knew I had 20 minutes to give everything so I just didn’t stop running. It was definitely a step up to what I was used to but I enjoyed every second of it. 

RN: Since making your debuts, have you felt more comfortable each week?

HS: Yeah definitely. Once you pick up all the knowledge and you get a bit more game time, you feel a lot more relaxed about it. Then you get to review each part of your game and that helps you improve little technical elements each week. 

RN: What are the main differences from Shute Shield and NRC to Super Rugby?

WM: The main thing would probably be the size of the players you’re playing against. They’re bigger bodies but they are fast as well. You get a lot of big guys in the Shute Shield or NRC but usually they aren’t very quick so it’s easily to manipulate them a bit. Playing against South Africans who were six foot four and could probably run the 100 in 11 seconds, it was something else.

HS: Bigger bodies definitely and we got that impression from playing three South African teams in a row. It’s definitely quicker but I certainly don’t think it’s impossible to step up to from the Shute Shield.

It’s funny, Will and I both spoke about how many breaks you get. When the ball is in play, it’s obviously very quick and it’s a faster game but there are a lot of breaks with things like the TMO and you end up just standing around. On the weekend when Mafi and Cooper had a bit of a scuffle, that was five or six minutes that you were just standing around. So you do get a chance to get your breath back and go again.

WM: The game against the Reds on the weekend was probably the fastest out of the four games I’ve played. There was a lot more ball in play and counter attack, whereas in the others games there was a lot more kicking.

HS: We haven’t played a New Zealand side yet so it will be interesting to see the difference. We play the Crusaders next week so that will be exciting.

RN: Will you managed to steal a try, that must have been a good feeling?

WM: Yeah, I didn’t have to do too much which is always good but it was a good feeling to get a try. It was just unfortunate that we couldn’t get the win.


RN: Do you both now feel as though you’re ready to play Super Rugby full time?

WM: It’s certainly given me a lot more confidence. There are a lot of little things we probably both need to work on but after getting a taste for it, you get a better idea of what it’s like and it definitely makes you want more.

HS: I think we know what it takes to play at this level now so we’ve just got to keep working and try to get better each week and then hopefully we can both get a full time gig somewhere. 

RN: Has there been much talk about the Rebels future?

WM: I really hope they decide to keep all five teams. It’s obviously in the back of a lot of the guys minds but it isn’t spoken about too much. When we first got down here, there was a lot of chat but fortunately we were sheltered from it all over in South Africa.

RN: So you think the ARU should keep all five teams?

WM: Yeah I do. I think if we can do it, there are probably 20 other blokes playing club footy who are just as good.

HS: The playing depth is there. There are quality footballers playing in the Shute Shield, in Brisbane and in Canberra. It all comes down to how they are coached and managed. We obviously haven’t played a New Zealand team though so it’s a little hard to gauge how competitive we are.

What has been the best experience so far?

WM: It would have to be that first start in South Africa. Getting a draw, it would have been better if it were a win but that whole game was an eye opening experience and something that I’ll never forget.

HS: Yeah, to make our debuts together was pretty special. Mine was from the bench, but to do that in front of a huge crowd at the Shark tank, it was a pretty awesome experience. 

RN: You’re both very lovey-dovey these days.

HS: Haha yeah, we’ve been rooming together for six weeks now. We can’t get away from one another.