No surprise to me that Beale is a trump at No.10
Given a go … Rebels five-eighth Kurtley Beale. Photo: Getty Images
It's always interesting to note what the perception is and what is written in the public domain. More often than not there is such haste and enthusiasm to announce the next big thing that sometimes it's missed that it has been staring them in the face for some time.
In the past 10 days one of the bigger stories has been around the revelation that is Kurtley Beale at No.10, while much has also been said of Liam Gill's play for the Queensland Reds. A great deal has been made about both topics but I'm not sure why there has been so much surprise.
Beale is an extremely good player, can read the game well, and best of all, can bring the players around him into the match. For Gill, only a month ago I was being asked about the possibility of signing David Pocock. At the time I rejected the notion as the Reds have a strong belief in what Gill and Beau Robinson bring to the group. Nothing has changed.
This isn't about pushing anyone's agenda for representative honours or otherwise, but more about making a point that amidst all the excitement in the media, more often than not, the answers are right in front of them.
I said it before the Rugby World Cup - if Quade Cooper was injured I would have Beale at five-eighth. They are the same type of player, so you don't need to change much tactically to make it happen.
What's forgotten, though, is that Cooper and Beale are the same age and therefore faced a problem at Australian schoolboy level because, logistically, coaches wanted them on the field at the same time. One of them was always going to end up at fullback.
When I was at the Waratahs, I recall the difficulty of finding a No.10. I went to Beale's manager Glen Ella and, after meeting Beale when he was only 16 while he was in year 11 at St Joseph's, we signed him to the Tahs. This stopped rugby league chasing him as we waited for him to arrive.
He hit the scene in 2007 where he was to be the understudy to Mat Rogers. Rogers left early to league so Beale started at five-eighth for NSW in his first year out of school. It was a tough for him but the talent was clearly there.
The Tahs struggled in 2007 but went to the 2008 final against the Crusaders when Beale was at No.10. The final was in Christchurch and we were leading the Crusaders before an ankle injury forced him from the field with half an hour to go. We ended up losing to Dan Carter's boot but Beale had helped create two tries to the Crusaders' one. The evidence was always there that Beale would be very useful in the key playmaking role. I subscribe to the theory that the best ball players need to touch the ball the most, so it's good to see the Rebels giving him a go.
Another player lauded recently is Gill. While people are clamouring to figure out if he indeed has the highest number of steals in the competition, it's forgotten that a year ago he produced a man-of-the-match display against the Chiefs in Hamilton - an honour he again earned against the same last Sunday. He announced his abilities in that match against the Chiefs last year and has replicated it on each opportunity since.
What's important when young players hit the scene is managing their exposure to the game while allowing them to develop physically and emotionally. The best players are the ones who play better each time they experience a higher level of rugby. They get better when the task is greater.
During the past three weeks Gill has gone up against the Braid brothers for the Blues, McCaw and Todd in the Crusaders, and Messam and Latimer for the Chiefs. He has done very well and influenced the game each time. The best part is he is only 19 and there's plenty more to come.
Lastly, there will be much written this week about the return of Cooper. It's always good to see great players get back on the field. The public don't see the pain, suffering and dedication that goes into long-term rehabilitation. For this reason alone I hope Saturday is all good for him.
It's also important to note that there is a youngster on the bench set to make his debut - Chris F'Sautia. He just turned 18 but is a highly talented outside back. He is one of the most capped Australian Schoolboy players and has played at that level since year 10.
He had been plagued by a hamstring injury but is raring to go. I'm confident we will be talking about him enthusiastically in a year's time. Just don't be surprised.