Rugby Union

Super Rugby or Olympic Games? Tom Cusack makes a choice between two dreams

The ACT Brumbies or an Olympic Games? That is the agonising choice Tom Cusack had to make between his childhood dream and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to chase a gold medal in Rio.

But Cusack says the "carrot" of an Olympics convinced him to have a shot at the biggest sporting event in the world before he considers a switch to Super Rugby.

Chasing gold: Tom Cusack says the Olympics was the "carrot" to turn down a chance at Super Rugby.
Chasing gold: Tom Cusack says the Olympics was the "carrot" to turn down a chance at Super Rugby. Photo: Getty Images

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham came knocking on Cusack's door earlier this year to see if the Canberra junior was interested in joining the club for the 2016 season.

Cusack was tempted, but after three years in the sevens program the former Marist College student set his sights on an Olympic party in Rio.

Festive break: Tom Cusack will spend Christmas with his family in Canberra before returning to Australian sevens ...
Festive break: Tom Cusack will spend Christmas with his family in Canberra before returning to Australian sevens training on January 4. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Cusack's decision to stick with sevens comes as former Brumbies coach Andy Friend looms as the man to take charge of Australia for the Olympics.

Friend, who is coaching Suntory in Japan, is on a shortlist of candidates and the Australian Rugby Union is finalising its decision on who will be given the job for the sport's Olympic debut.

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Cusack has signed a new one-year deal with sevens, but that has not deterred the Brumbies. Larkham has said he will maintain contact with the player with a view to getting him into Super Rugby.

"Tommy is a Canberra boy, he's come up through the ranks in local rugby and he's someone we're very interested in," Larkham said.

"He's been very successful with the sevens and every time he's back playing club rugby, he impresses. As soon as he's ready to come back and play 15s, we're keen to have him."

Cusack was on the verge of landing a deal with the Brumbies two years ago before injury intervened and changed the course of his career.

Instead of joining the Brumbies, he signed a two-year contract with the sevens program and was picked for the Commonwealth Games despite not playing in 12 months.

He has flirted with the 15-a-side game in that time, playing for Royals in Canberra's club competition as well as the Canberra Vikings.

So when his contract was nearing its end, the Brumbies - the club he grew up idolising - initiated talks again in a bid to get him to put his talent into Super Rugby.

However, Cusack said sevens was the No.1 priority for now as he aims to turn a Commonwealth Games bronze into Olympic gold.

"I've always aspired to play Super Rugby, but I've invested a lot of time and a lot of who I am into the sevens program and the carrot of the Olympics was too good to give up," Cusack said.

"I've grown up in Canberra, I've trained at the Brumbies base at Griffith and their new headquarters at the University of Canberra. I'm always in touch with them.

"My relationship with the Brumbies isn't taken lightly and it is nice to know they're keeping any eye on me. But this is the year of the Olympics and that's where my mind is set at the moment."

The men's sevens team is still waiting to find out who its new coach will be.

It has been speculated that Friend and former England sevens champion Ben Gollings are the two candidates.

Cusack, Brumbies winger Henry Speight and former St Edmund's College student Lewis Holland are part of the extended sevens squad.

But the group of 20 will be cut to 12 for the Olympics, while Wallabies Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley could also be parachuted in.

"My game's developing and evolving ... but there's a lot of tournaments coming up," Cusack said.

"You've got to build up the ability to perform and perform under pressure. We're building combinations this year, everyone will get an opportunity to perform.

"It's about taking your moment and taking it with two hands. There's a lot of competition and that's healthy for everyone and our ultimate goal, which is chasing that Olympic medal."

The sevens squad will restart training in Narrabeen on January 4 with the first world series tournament of 2016 to be played in the New Zealand capital, Wellington, on January 30 and 31.