Brodie Retallick's mammoth performance bodes well for Chiefs and All Blacks
Fears of Brodie Retallick’s demise may have been somewhat premature – if the big All Black lock’s performance against the Waratahs on Saturday afternoon is anything to go by.
Retallick had been one of New Zealand’s top performers from the time he was first called up into the national squad in 2012 until a serious shoulder injury suffered in the lead-up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Retallick eventually made a return to the field during that showpiece tournament but struggled to ignite his play after so much time on the sidelines.
The 31-year-old spent the following two seasons in Japan, finally returning for the All Blacks last year, but still never looked quite up to his old standards. While no one would question Retallick’s industry or accuracy, the big plays that he was so well known for during his formative years were few and far between.
2022 loomed as an opportunity for Retallick to get back to his best with a full season of Super Rugby with the Chiefs on the cards but an injury suffered just six games into the campaign would not have helped the second-rower’s cause.
Retallick returned to the field last week against the Fijian Drua and quietly went about his business but it was against the Waratahs on Saturday that his performance would have put a smile on All Blacks coach Ian Foster’s face. The big man was instrumental in the Chiefs forwards building ascendency over their Australian counterparts, putting in one especially punishing hit on Waratahs fullback Ben Donaldson, and was carrying and passing the ball with the dominance and accuracy that everyone has come to expect.
The man himself acknowledged that it was an enjoyable game to be involved in, especially playing in front of the Hamilton faithful for just the second time since the 2019 Super Rugby season.
“It was an enjoyable win and it’s awesome to be playing finals footy in Hamilton,” Retallick said in the post-match wash-up with Sky Sport.
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“It’s a sacred ground to us, we love playing here and I think I’ve only played one game here this year and I got injured so it’s great to be back running around and get the win to move on.
“It was a lot easier playing out here tonight than it was last week in Fiji but it’s great just to be playing footy again, I’m loving it.”
The Chiefs went into the match anticipating a hefty challenge from the New South Welshman – who won zero matches last year but picked up eight victories in 2022, including securing a rare victory over the Crusaders.
“I think we knew the Waratahs were awesome defensively – I think they lead the statistics around the ruck and the breakdown so we knew we had to be tough there,” Retallick said. “That was just a great Chiefs pack performance.
“It’s play-off footy and the teams that’s most physical normally comes out on top.”
When quizzed on whether he had a preference for who the Chiefs would play in the semi-finals, Retallick indicated that a trip south would perhaps be the favourable outcome.
“I don’t think it really matters, to be fair,” he said. “We’ll play whoever we need to.
“I guess if it is the Crusaders, we’re one and one; we beat them down there, they came up here and beat us so I’d love to go down to Christchurch.”
With the Blues securing a comfortable win over the Highlanders in the Saturday evening match, the Chiefs will indeed head to Christchurch next Friday for what looms as a titanic battle full of feeling with the Crusaders.
If the Chiefs are to have any hope of securing a win, however, they’ll need to get the best out of Retallick – a man who might be coming under pressure from some of the Chiefs’ young All Blacks locks, Tupou Vaa’i and Josh Lord.
Retallick’s strong performance against the Waratahs won’t necessarily quell the suggestions that he’s lost some of his luster – it will take some back-to-back showcases to understandably silence any critics but a similar showing against the Crusaders will certainly help his cause.
With Sam Whitelock and Scott Barrett also vying for locking spots down at the Crusaders and the first All Blacks squad of the season set to be named on Monday, now is the perfect time for Brodie Retallick to quickly find some blinding form – both he and the Chiefs may be depending on it.
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