Matt Toomua goes from Brumbies player to Barista at ONA Cafe, Manuka, as fellow team mates David Pocock, Ruaidhri Murphy, and ONA employee Lauren Boric look on. Photo: Melissa Adams
With the same intense concentration as lining up the ball for a boot over the black dot, Brumbies flyhalf Matt Toomua steams the milk and brews the coffee at the Ona cafe in Manuka.
He’s trying to be oblivious to Brumbies flanker David Pocock’s cheeky order for a mocha frappuccino (hey, this isn’t Starbucks) and prop Ruaidhri Murphy’s earnest attempts at waiting the tables, his meaty fingers using the end of a teaspoon to tap the orders into the palm pilot.
‘‘Sorry, Matt spilt the milk,’’ Murphy said, as he delicately placed a cup of coffee before a customer.
Matt Toomua in training at ONA Cafe, Manuka. Photo: Melissa Adams
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As the Brumbies shape up for their first qualifying final at Canberra stadium in almost a decade, against the Cheetahs on Sunday afternoon, Toomua took advantage of the team’s day off on Thursday to turn his mind to something other than the pressures of rugby.
The 23-year-old has been completing some barista courses through Ona Coffee House at Fyshwick, hoping to perhaps one day open a cafe post-rugby, possibly following in the footsteps of Brumbies great George Gregan who has a chain of cafes in Sydney.
‘‘I’ve done a fair few formal courses and I try to get here once a week and I’ve got my own machine at home which, when I’m bored, I like to go grab some milk and pour some coffees,’’ Toomua said.
‘‘It’s really cool to not think about rugby for a day.’’
Ona cafe owner and rugby fan Caleb Evans said Toomua approached him about six weeks ago to do some shifts on the Brumbies’ usual day off on Wednesdays.
‘‘He’s actually going really well, he pours good coffee,’’ he said. ‘‘He takes it really seriously.’’
And having one of the Brumbies behind the counter has been good for business.
‘‘He comes down in the afternoon, and all the girls come with him,’’ Mr Evans said, with a laugh.
So does he get paid?
‘‘Ah, we pay him in coffee. I think he’s doing all right,’’ Mr Evans said.
Toomua’s team-mates were there to support him on Thursday, Murphy taking the orders and Pocock filling in as DJ.
‘‘David’s doubling-up as eye candy, trying to get everyone in,’’ Toomua said. Scrumhalf Nic White and prop Dan Palmer, with a very Laurie Fisher-esque hair-do, also popped in for a bite to eat.
Irish-born Murphy was quickly charming the customers as he punched through the orders.
‘‘It’s a bit of pressure but it’s all happening,’’ he said.
Toomua, meanwhile, is a conscientious student, taking home kilos of beans to practice his coffee-making at home and ‘‘working on my love hearts and tulips’’ for the coffee art.
In the cafe, he gets the occasional compliment but his Brumbies team-mates invariably tell him his coffee is ‘‘terrible’’.
‘‘Sometimes it gets nerve-racking, especially with everyone around you. But it’s like anything, the more I do it, the better I’ll get,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m loving it. It’s good fun.’’
On game day he will have an piccolo or espresso in the morning, hoping to cream the Cheetahs that afternoon.
‘‘I’m very excited. I haven’t been in a finals for a long, long time, so, super-excited,’’ he said.