Date: June 24 2012
NOT even a visit from Jonah Lomu could save the Wallabies if Sitaleki Timani was in the starting line-up.
Or so Tongan-born Timani thought, as he sat on the sideline watching as Australia trailed by a point late in the second half.
The second-row wrecking ball had just been hooked from the field and replaced by Rob Simmons. It had been his second start for the Wallabies this season and the first one - against Scotland in Newcastle - had not gone well. So Timani was wondering why his meeting with All Blacks great Lomu at the team hotel yesterday morning didn't seem to be the good-luck charm he'd hoped it would.
''I came off and looked at the scoreboard and we were down by one and when we got the penalty and [Berrick Barnes] stepped up to make the kick I was just sitting, so nervous, on the sideline, hoping we'd get the win,'' Timani said. ''I thought if he missed that goal I was thinking I might be the bad-luck charm for the team. But it was pretty good he got it.''
A sprinkling of the Lomu magic came through in the end, ensuring Timani's first win in an Australian jersey would be remembered for more than just the nail-biting finish. Lomu met a few of the Wallabies in New Zealand during the Rugby World Cup last year. But a pair of boots Lomu autographed for Kurtley Beale went missing this year, so the New Zealand rugby icon dropped into the team hotel yesterday morning to scribble his name on a new pair.
Timani also had a chat to his childhood hero, although Lomu was said to be gobsmacked to meet a man larger than him, if only in height. Last night, Timani paid tribute to another of rugby's imposing men, Nathan Sharpe. He said training and playing with the veteran Force lock was a highlight of the mid-season Test break.
''Just learning from Sharpey, line-out wise, and talking all the time, coming around the corner and stuff,'' Timani said. ''I think it [has been] more physical at Test level and I just need to learn to be confident in myself and take that into a game. Today I was a bit slow at the start and in the second half I was a bit more confident and started to play.''
Barnes - man-of-the-match for the second week running - said he had also gained confidence from the past four Test matches, after stepping into the five-eighth role in the absence through injury of James O'Connor, Quade Cooper and Beale.
''I've been fortunate, an opportunity presented itself - and I didn't think I was playing too bad in the last few rounds of Super [Rugby] - I thought I was building and I was working hard off the field, so I couldn't see why, when an opportunity presented itself, why I couldn't keep going with that,'' Barnes said.
He and wife Bek welcomed son Archie into the world on the eve of the second Test in Melbourne. Barnes made a dramatic trip from Sydney to Melbourne just in time for the match.
''That's definitely helped I suppose, definitely given me a bit of a spur-on, and it definitely puts a lot of things in perspective, that's for sure,'' he said. ''And I've probably been freed up by it a lot, and I can't fault the blokes around me in the support they've given me, so it's been great.''
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