Pair pull plug as sparkies for a shot at Brumbies
ACT club players Matt Hawke and Sam Windsor training with the Brumbies at Brumbies HQ. Photo: Melissa Adams
They usually spend their days as sparkies around Canberra but Sam Windsor and Matt Hawke are adamant putting work and life on hold to chase their Super Rugby dreams is worth the risk.
Windsor, Hawke and five other players from Canberra's premier division have taken leave from their day jobs to train full-time with the ACT Brumbies in a draining pre-season schedule.
It's a giant leap from the John I Dent Cup to a professional program.
But after fearing his Brumbies and Super Rugby chance had passed by him, Queanbeyan Whites playmaker Windsor is determined to make the most of his second opportunity.
Windsor was in the Brumbies Academy four years ago.
However, he moved to Sydney and played in London for two years before returning to the Whites line-up this season. He is about to start a university degree.
The Brumbies program and the opportunities given to club rugby players was one of the major reasons Windsor decided to return.
''I thought I had exhausted my options here [in 2008], but I thought it was a good time to come back. It was a no-brainer when they asked if we wanted to be involved,'' the 25-year-old said.
''I've never been involved in anything of this calibre. There's a big step from amateur rugby to even semi-professional, but hopefully this opens doors down the track.
''I weighed up the options and you've got to take certain risks and sacrifice some things if you want to make it and I'm happy to take that hit to try to get myself further along.''
When Brumbies coach Jake White took over the Super Rugby coaching job, he made a concerted effort to boost the Canberra competition.
The Brumbies players were divided up among the Canberra clubs instead of having players return to play in Sydney or Brisbane.
Australian Schoolboy representatives Andrew Robinson and Tom Staniforth have also been given the opportunity to train in White's squad.
But while Wests made the John I Dent Cup grand final, none of that club's players have been picked to train with the full-time squad.
The Brumbies had a long injury list after last season and White has opted to promote club players to increase the size of his squad for the pre-season.
Hawke has been one of the Gungahlin Eagles' best over the past few seasons and is also a qualified electrician.
But he had no hesitation delaying his tradesman life to train with the Brumbies in order to open Super Rugby and overseas doors to potential contracts.
''This is something you've been wanting to do since you were a kid … I'm pretty confident [it will lead to something], I'm here to become a better footballer and at this stage I'm getting better and better each day which is good.
''Jake makes it clear we're here to work. It's not a party. You can't put one foot wrong here … you have to meet every deadline.''