The Kiwi who wanted to be a Wallaby
SPOTLIGHT: The Wallabies have Test centurion Matt Giteau to thank for Irae Simone’s unlikely commitment to Australia over his birth country New Zealand.
The big Brumbies centre is part of the 44-man Wallabies squad preparing for next month’s opening Bledisloe Cup Tests, where he is aiming for an international debut.
Despite being a part of the NZ schoolboys Rugby League team as well as playing Rugby Union at his Auckland school alongside current All Blacks centre Jack Goodhue, Simone said he always wanted to play for the Wallabies.
He said his family had recently dug out a video of him as an 11-year-old declaring his allegiance to the men in gold.
“In an old video my parents asked me what team I wanted to play for and I said the Wallabies,” Simone said on Tuesday.
“Somehow I looked up to a lot of All Blacks but never wanted to play for them and my family are huge Wallabies supporters so they’re pretty stoked about this.
“It’s crazy – I pinch myself that I’m here so I’m just going to enjoy the experience and hopefully get a few games under my belt.”
— Wallabies (@wallabies) September 21, 2020
Simone said that Wallabies great, former centre Giteau was his favourite player and a reason for his passion for Australia.
“I loved watching him [Giteau], in terms of his skills and mindset and how he approached the game,” the 25-year-old said.
“Back then the Wallabies were at their peak and it’s fair to say they’ve dropped down a bit in the last couple of years but I’m with a special group here that can hopefully take it up again.”
Simone moved to Australia in 2013 as an 18-year-old after signing with NRL club South Sydney and he played in the Nines tournament in 2016 but didn’t get a run in first grade.
He played Shute Shield with Norths and caught the eye of the Waratahs, making 10 Super Rugby appearances in 2017.
Stuck behind the likes of Kurtley Beale and Karmichael Hunt, he shifted to the Brumbies ahead of the 2019 season and is now one of their first picked and a key part of their surge to the Super Rugby AU title last Saturday.
Veterans Matt Toomua and James O’Connor are likely favourites at inside centre. However, Simone’s combination with Brumbies playmaker Noah Lolesio could factor into the thinking of new coach Dave Rennie.
Simone said he was up for the fight.
“There’s not a position that’s secured at the moment and I know that 12 is up for grabs,” he said.
“I will be going for that No.12, I know there’s a few boys there but my eye is up for that jersey.”
Meanwhile, injured young gun Jordan Petaia will join the squad on their Friday flight to New Zealand and is still a chance for the opening Test in Wellington on October 11.
🏠 New kids on the block. #Wallabies
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— Wallabies (@wallabies) September 22, 2020