Wallaby legend makes U-turn on retirement
NEWS: The LA Giltinis have announced the signing of former Wallabies playmaker Matt Giteau.
The Australian’s unveiling is the biggest recruitment news of the off-season for both the Giltinis and Major League Rugby’s fourth season.
Wooing Australia’s three-time World Cup star on a one-season deal adds a huge marquee name to the Giltinis’ roster of players from seven countries.
The Wallabies great decided to retire after his final season for Suntory Sungoliath ended suddenly in March when Japan’s 2020 Top League season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Giteau’s polished skills at flyhalf and inside centre, as one of the most influential backs of the 21st century, have generated six elite trophies in Australia (Brumbies), France (Toulon) and Japan (Suntory).
One of the game’s all-time great, Giteau is excited about his final frontier in rugby.
“Starting a franchise afresh, the history I have with certain players and staff at the Giltinis and the family feel to this adventure were all big things that persuaded me,” Giteau said.
“And I get to live in one of the coolest cities in the world and experience this with my kids at an age when they’ll remember it.
“To be honest, I felt a bit unfulfilled with the way things ended in Japan and it made me think that just retiring because of ‘age’ was selling myself a bit short.
“Like everyone, I felt that moment this year when sport was taken away (because of the pandemic) so I got excited with the LA offer and realised you are a long time retired.”
Giteau’s skilful sparkle earned him the first of his 103 test caps for the Wallabies in 2002.
He would go on to score 30 tries and 698 points and live up to his early nickname as ‘Kid Dynamite’ with his silky ball-playing, sharp footwork and smart organising skills.
So talented, Rugby Australia changed their own rules by drafting the so-called ‘Giteau Law’ to select players from outside Australia who had played 60 or more tests.
He was playing in France when recalled for a stirring comeback at the 2015 World Cup after winning a hat-trick of European Rugby Champions Cups (2013-15) with Toulon.
“I still love to play and compete. What will give me just as much satisfaction is helping to create the identity of the Giltinis and developing the potential in some excellent American and international youngsters for the club’s future,” Giteau said.
“I’ve had a lot of opportunities to speak to (head coach) Darren Coleman about the values he holds dear and how important it is to nurture local American and Canadian players and get them into national teams.
“I feel I know what successful clubs look like…you need strong leaders and you need to establish what you stand for early on and off the field.
“If you stick to those standards it becomes habitual for those who follow in the seasons ahead.
“With good people, you create a family feel at a club and you do more than normal to protect that and not let the club down.
“I’m excited. I know how big sport is in the United States in general and I see Major League Rugby having a real crack to turn the USA into a dominant rugby nation.
“The Giltinis will be out in the LA rugby community to get our fans fully involved.”
Father-of-three Giteau’s close friendship with former Wallaby Adam Ashley-Cooper was a factor too when they both decided to jump into this adventure.
The pair share a business partnership in Backline Wines with retired Wallaby, Drew Mitchell.
As a sign of Giteau’s commitment, he bobbed up in Australian club rugby mid-season in Canberra with Gungahlin Eagles during the COVID-19 restrictions.
He helped guide the club to a first grand final in 13 years, defeated isolation by gelling with a new band of rugby friends and kept his rugby engine purring.
“The Giteau name is world famous and he brings multiple layers to the club in marketability, mentoring for our younger players and an amazing trophy record as a winner,” Coleman said.
“He’s renowned as always being fiercely competitive as a player and trainer and I’m really excited he’s coming to Los Angeles with a fire in his belly to help make the club successful.
“He’s going to be an excellent mentor for young No.10s like Luke Burton, Luke Carty and Jeff Peleseuma in our squad.”
The Giltinis will kick off their MLR campaign on the weekend of March 20, 2021, with tickets being available by the end of this year.