SportTuggeranong Vikings Vs Canberra Royals. Royals’ Tom Cusack.Filed: Saturday, 27 July 2013 6:18:40 PM Photo by Rohan Thomson, The Canberra Timesrt130727Union-4883.jpg Photo: Rohan ThomsonRio Olympian Tom Cusack had to take a pay cut to chase his ACT Brumbies dream, but the former n sevens stars says it will all be worth it when he makes his debut.
Cusack is poised to play his first Super Rugby game after being named on the Brumbies bench for the clash against the Melbourne Rebels on Saturday night.
The 24-year-old spent the past four seasons travelling the world to tournaments in Las Vegas, London, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand and the Rio Olympic Games.
But the well-travelled back-rower has never played a competitive match in Melbourne and is bracing for a brutal battle against the Rebels.
Cusack was one of ‘s best performers at the Olympics last year, and was named in the team of the tournament.
However, he turned his back on another year in sevens to pursue his Super Rugby ambitions.
The Brumbies tried to lure Cusack to Super Rugby in 2013 and 2015, but Olympic and Commonwealth Games campaigns convinced him to stay in sevens.
This time he took the deal and a pay cut just to join the Brumbies’ extended chance in the hope of achieving a childhood dream.
“I was happy to go down the sevens path and then when it became an Olympic sport, that dragged it out to four years,” Cusack said.
“Ticking off a Commonwealth Games, an Olympic Games and travelling the world for four years is something I will never regret.
“But I always wanted to play for the Brumbies. It’s always been a gamble, but I’ve put my hand up to throw myself into the deep end.
“You have a fear that you won’t get the chance to do what you want. This is where I want to be and sometimes you have to take a step back to go forwards.
“For me it was never about money. I do need to make money because it is my job. But the financials weren’t the issue, I wanted my foot in the door.”
Cusack has been biding his time in the first two months of the season, but Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham is throwing him into the clash against the Rebels.
No. 8 Jordan Smiler injured his hamstring and will miss at least two weeks, opening the door for Jarrad Butler to move into the starting XV and for Cusack to join a forwards-heavy bench.
Larkham made five changes to the team that beat the Queensland Reds last weekend.
Butler replaces Smiler, skipper Sam Carter has been recalled after being rested, Andrew Smith will move to inside centre to replace Kyle Godwin (broken hand) while Cusack and Jordan Jackson-Hope have been added to the bench.
Smith is starting his first game for the Brumbies in three years after a stint in France and injuries last year limited his involvement.
“Smitty is a very consistent competitor and I think has the skill set to play [either inside centre or outside centre],” Larkham said.
Andrew Smith of the Brumbies evades the tackle of Samu Kerevi of the Reds. Photo: Getty
“He’s been here in the past more as a No. 13, but we feel like we’ve got the right game plan to utilise him at No. 12. He looks very comfortable in that position.”
Cusack’s balancing act has been keeping the speed that made him a key player in sevens while also bulking up to match the physical demands of the Super Rugby back row.
“Sevens has given my game so much and in my mind it was the best thing that could happen in my career in the early stages,” Cusack said.
“I got to try something unique and now I get to transition back to 15-a-side and bring those things back with me.
“Until you’re a stalwart of the team, you still have some doubts. All I’m here to do is to make sure I put my hand up, get bigger and train harder.
“This is where I always wanted to end up – playing Super Rugby. Being a Canberra boy, this is what I see as a natural fit and it’s humbling.”
SUPER RUGBY ROUND EIGHT
Saturday: Melbourne Rebels v ACT Brumbies at AAMI Park, Melbourne, 7.45pm. TV time: Live on Fox Sports 1.
Brumbies team: 15. Aidan Toua, 14. Henry Speight, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 12. Andrew Smith, 11. Tom Banks, 10. Wharenui Hawera, 9. Joe Powell, 8. Jarrad Butler, 7. Chris Alcock, 6. Scott Fardy, 5. Sam Carter, 4. Rory Arnold, 3. Allan Alaalatoa, 2. Robbie Abel, 1. Scott Sio. Reserves: 16. Saia Faingaa, 17. Nic Mayhew, 18. Ben Alexander, 19. Blake Enever, 20. Tom Staniforth, 21. Tom Cusack, 22. De Wet Roos, 23. Jordan Jackson-Hope.