Canberra rugby veteran out of retirement again for Malaysian 10s

Canberra rugby veteran out of retirement again for Malaysian 10s

The next-day bumps and bruises remind Aaron McInnes he's 18 years into a Canberra rugby league and rugby union career. But reality will really set in when he plays in the same team as a kid he used to coach.

McInnes is coming out of retirement, again, to link up with the Canberra Barbarians at the Cobra 10s international rugby tournament in Malaysia on Saturday and Sunday.

Aaron McInnes can't bring himself to officially retire.

Aaron McInnes can't bring himself to officially retire.Credit:Jay Cronan

One of his teammates will be Wests playmaker Seb Lorraway, who was in the under-14s side McInnes coached more than a decade ago. "I think I'm a sucker for punishment," McInnes, 37, laughed.

"I coached Seb back in 2006 and have known him for a long time as a coach and now as a teammate. There are some others I've had some coaching stuff with as well.


"The [Barbarians] were looking for a few older heads to help steer the younger guys around, and I don't mind the 10s because 10 minutes is about all I'm good for."

McInnes has switched between the Canberra Raiders Cup and the John I Dent Cup, helping the Queanbeyan Blues and Wests to respective grand finals.

He left Wests after losing the grand final in 2012, and then went on to win premierships at the Blues before retiring at the end of last year.

But his break from sport didn't last long and he answered an SOS from the injury-hit Blues to help a young side rebuild this season.


So at 37 years old, McInnes was running around against players almost half of his age and still was an effective addition to the Blues squad.

"I ended up playing half of the season for the Blues this year ... [coach Terry Campese] probably didn't have to twist my arm too much to come back and play.

"I'd been running the water and been helping with some coaching. One thing led to another and all of a sudden I was on the field again playing.

"There's always a bit of hunger to play. The head says yes, but the body is saying it can't keep up. Probably not again next year, I'm 38 in March next year and 18 years of first grade is enough toil on the body."

Barbarians coach Junior Luteru has thrown together a group of Canberra's best to make a charge for the title at the Petaling Jaya Stadium, which has a capacity of 25,000.

The Canberra squad has been thrown together with players from Wests, Easts, Royals and the Brumbies academy, as well as a couple of rugby league converts to help them against teams boasting former Super Rugby players.

The Cobra 10s has 16 teams from six countries, with the Barbarians to play Daveta from Fiji, the West Coast Sharks from South Africa and the UPM Angels from Malaysia.

"A rugby tour is a good way to open your eyes to the world of rugby," McInnes said.

"We've got a pretty handy side - hopefully the right blend of a bit of a hard edge in the forwards and a bit of flair in the backs. The Cobra 10s is well known internationally, so there will be some tough sides."

Chris Dutton is the sports editor at The Canberra Times.

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