ACT Brumbies player Pat McCabe undergoes biometric testing in the AIS Indoor Athletics Track. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
Unlucky Wallabies star Pat McCabe says the frustration of two injury-cursed years is driving his ambition to get back to the top and reignite his rugby career.
McCabe is almost back to full training with the ACT Brumbies despite breaking his neck twice in the past 12 months.
But after missing the Brumbies charge to the Super Rugby final, the 21-Test Wallaby admits he doesn't know where he fits into the ACT backline and has been told to prepare to play almost every position.
ACT Brumbies player Pat McCabe, centre, chats with a team mate as he warms up before biometric testing in the AIS Indoor Athletics Track. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
McCabe broke his neck the first time while playing for the Wallabies on the spring tour of Europe last November.
He broke his neck for a second time playing in the first Test against the British and Irish Lions in June, ruling him out of playing and contact training until the start of next year.
McCabe, 25, was almost forced into early retirement, but has been told his neck will make a full recovery and he's not risking long-term damage.
''I guess I've had my moments with it, it's just something you need to do,'' McCabe said.
''[Rugby] is still something I'm extremely passionate about and I feel like I can improve a great deal. The drive has never left me, but the frustration did get me down at times.
''For now at least, I'm ready to go and I'm really excited. It was personally frustrating not being able to contribute [last season].''
McCabe was at the peak of his powers in 2011 and 2012 and had established himself as the Wallabies' regular starting inside centre.
But breaking his neck against France almost ended his career and he spent three months in a neck brace.
His comeback in the Super Rugby season was hampered by knee and hamstring injuries.
When he finally got fit, he was picked to play against the Lions before disaster struck again in a seemingly innocuous tackle.
McCabe had broken his neck again, missed the rest of the Lions tour and had to sit on the sideline as the Brumbies lost the Super Rugby grand final.
''I don't want to say too much, I said a few times last year that my [injury bad luck] had ended,'' McCabe said.
''It wasn't the end though, so this time I'm just going to say I'd love to have a slightly less injury interrupted year [next season] and hopefully get through the pre-season unscathed.''
McCabe's injury curse continued this month. After two broken necks and knee and hamstring problems, McCabe missed the first week of pre-season training because of illness.
McCabe is at pre-season training with the Brumbies for the first time since 2009.
It will give coaches Stephen Larkham and Laurie Fisher a chance to figure out where he fits in the backline.
Versatile McCabe was the Brumbies and Wallabies' No12 before he was hit by injuries. It's unclear how he will fit into new Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie's plans.
In his absence at the Brumbies, Matt Toomua and Christian Lealiifano have cemented a flyhalf-inside centre combination.
McCabe can play outside centre, wing or fullback, but the Brumbies boast Wallabies representatives in every back-line position.
Wallabies tourists Tevita Kuridrani (outside centre) and Joseph Tomane (wing) fill two of the spots.
Winger Henry Speight would have made his Wallabies debut this year had it not been for an eligibility bungle, fullback Jesse Mogg made his Test debut this year and former Wallaby Clyde Rathbone is also competing for a spot.
''I'm extremely excited for this year, trying to force my way back into the team drives me during the pre-season,'' McCabe said.
''I want to be physically and mentally prepared for what's to come.
''I'm not too sure where I fit in. I'm coming into the pre-season with an open mind and [Larkham] has said be ready to play anywhere from No12 out.
''The starting point is just getting myself ready to go and then playing wherever I'm needed.''