Rugby Union

ACT Brumbies hooker signs biggest deal of his career

An against-the-odds career has taught Josh Mann-Rea that nothing is impossible and the former coal miner is refusing to put a line through his World Cup hopes or an end date on his playing days after signing his first multi-year contract.

Josh Mann-Rea

He made an unexpected Wallabies debut last year. Now Brumbies hooker Josh Mann-Rea opens up on what inspired him to never give up.

Mann-Rea completed a triple signing coup for the ACT Brumbies on Tuesday, joining Scott Fardy and Sam Carter in re-committing to the club until at least the end of 2017.

It means Mann-Rea, known around the Brumbies as 'Bongo', will be 36 by the time his contract expires.

Josh Mann-Rea, centre, has re-signed with the Brumbies along with Sam Carter, left, and Scott Fardy, right.
Josh Mann-Rea, centre, has re-signed with the Brumbies along with Sam Carter, left, and Scott Fardy, right. Photo: Rohan Thomson

But after a remarkable rise from obscurity from the mines to a goal-kicking hooker in Japan, recovering from a knee reconstruction and earning a shock Wallabies call up last year, Mann-Rea says nothing is impossible.

That includes the prospect of a World Cup spot and the prospect of potentially playing beyond his two-year deal.

"Who would have thought I'd be wearing the national jersey [when I was 33 years old], crazy things happen in sport," Mann-Rea said.

"I think I've just been lucky with the opportunities I've been given. Some things have fallen into place, other things haven't.

Brumbies hooker Josh Mann-Rea is staying with the Brumbies.
Brumbies hooker Josh Mann-Rea is staying with the Brumbies. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

"I've tried to stay focused, I've had a lot of support at the Brumbies helping me through the tough times. I've just been lucky.

"I wouldn't say the next two years is the end. When I first came down here and did my knee [in 2013] there's no way I thought I'd be re-signing for two years now. I'm not going to say it will be the end, we'll see what happens."

Mann-Rea has established himself as the Brumbies' back-up rake to skipper Stephen Moore.

He will battle with Siliva Siliva for the bench spot for the rest of the year, but his new deal is a vote in confidence of his ability to cement his place and potentially take over from Moore at the end of 2016 when his deal ends.

Mann-Rea was ranked as the ninth string hooker in Australian rugby last year.

But when injuries hit the Test ranks, including Moore, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Nathan Charles, Mann-Rea was called into the Wallabies squad for the Rugby Championships and the spring tour of Europe.

Just two years earlier Mann-Rea was considering retiring after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee so that he could find a stable job to support his family.

Until now, Mann-Rea had never signed a contract for more than one year in a career which started as a talented junior in the Australia under-19s team in 2000.

"My wife [Sammy] is pretty happy, usually after about six months we look at what we're going to do . . . do we start re-negotiating or do we move and hang up the boots or whatever," Mann-Rea said.

"[Sammy] has made a lot of sacrifices through my footy career, I have to thank her a lot for what she's done. She's backed me the whole way when probably a lot of people said: 'give it away and focus on a proper job and security'.

"I'm a pretty lucky fella. I thought [Wallabies] might have passed me by. A lot of things happened that I didn't think they would."

SUPER RUGBY ROUND FIVE

Saturday: Queensland Reds v ACT Brumbies at Suncorp Stadium, 7.40pm (AEST). TV time: Live on Fox Sports 2.