Digby Ioane of the Reds is tackled by Clyde Rathbone of the Brumbies. Photo: Stefan Postles
WHILE it wasn't the fairytale return so many ACT Brumbies fans were hoping for, Clyde Rathbone showed enough to suggest a return to his best isn't far away as he picked up his 50th cap for the Super Rugby province.
Rathbone made his first start since retiring in 2009 due to a chronic knee injury and he battled weight problems and depression in his time away from the game.
After shedding some weight and getting his mind back on track, he answered a call last year from Brumbies mentor Jake White who floated the idea of a comeback.
Brumbies v Reds
The Brumbies come up against the Reds at Canberra Stadium to kick off the Super Rugby season. Photo: Jay Cronan
Last night was the culmination of 12 months' hard work.
White loved Rathbone's efforts and even considered letting him take over the kicking duties.
''It's fantastic isn't it, it's like a Hollywood story. At one stage after missing all those kikcs I thought they should give him a kick as well, that would've been a real story,'' White said.
''Emotionally it must be tough for him, but all credit he didn't talk himself, he talked a lot about the team … good for us, good for the team and good for the Canberrans to see him back.''
After leading the team on to the field, it was a quiet opening for the former Wallabies flyer. But every time he went near the ball the 17,058-strong crowd went nuts.
Through no fault of his own, it was a workman-like effort from Rathbone from limited opportunities. It took 10 minutes for him to even get a touch, fielding a kick inside his own 22 before he was quickly tackled.
The crowd erupted again when he chased a hopeful box kick from Brumbies scrumhalf Nic White and nailed the tackle on Reds scrum-half Nick Frisby.
Rathbone was quick to his feet and won the penalty at the breakdown, which White duly converted to put the Brumbies 8-6 up going into half-time.
Again he was cheered as he pounced on a loose pass by the Reds and charged down the box kick before putting in a bone-jarring tackle on Ben Lucas.
But cramp put an end to his comeback prematurely and the faithful stood as one with 15 minutes left on the clock.
While there was no barnstorming try or electric line break, there was enough to suggest that when the chance comes, Rathbone will take it - and the crowd will go berserk.