Genia gets chance as Wallabies No.9 - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Genia gets chance as Wallabies No.9

By Jim Morton 01/09/2009 05:50:57 PM Comments (0)

He grew up in Papua New Guinea playing cricket and idolising Steve Waugh and until a year ago never even thought about becoming a Wallaby.

But 21-year-old Will Genia on Tuesday capped the quickest rise in Australian rugby for many moons when he was awarded the Wallabies No.9 jersey to play South Africa at Suncorp Stadium.

While there will be a couple of younger men playing for Australia on Saturday night, at the start of 2009 Genia was the back-up halfback at the battling Queensland Reds.

While the axed Luke Burgess was being promoted as one of Australia's exciting young guns, Genia wasn't even included in a list of 40 potential Test players in this year's Wallabies media guide.

The son of a PNG politician, Genia himself never imagined starting a Test as a cricket-mad boy who only started playing rugby when his arm was twisted by fellow Brisbane Boys College boarders.

"They thought I was an islander so I must be good," he joked.

The thought was still not there when Reds coach Phil Mooney last August asked him if he'd be ready if opportunity, or more accurately Robbie Deans, knocked.

"I didn't have that in my mind to be honest," he said.

"I was more focused on wanting to start for Queensland and play good consistent rugby for Queensland."

Reds skipper James Horwill believed it was the pain of a four-week suspension for spear-tackling Sharks forward Keegan Daniel which helped propel Genia into Test reckoning during a mixed Super 14 campaign.

"I think that suspension hurt him a lot and made him really want to be out there," Horwill said.

"The team was also battling at that stage and he felt bad.

"The speed with which he's (risen) is a real credit to him."

Genia won't call it a blessing in disguise but admitted the ban worked in his favour, reaping the rewards for spending time improving his skills and fitness.

"I did feel like I let a few guys down," he said. "But I used it as an opportunity to work on a few things in that period.

"And I think I did come back even hungrier and performances showed I played well."

Genia was the form Australian No.9 when he suffered a finger injury in the third last round of the Super 14, sidelining him for 10 weeks.

In four Test appearances off the bench replacing the erratic Burgess, Genia has fit like a glove with his slick service and strong defence.

"He's been chipping away at earning that right (to start)," Deans said.

"He's shown that he's more than able at this level and we expect him to thrive."

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