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McReight ‘pumped and amped’ as he grabs his chance, but can’t escape elephant in the room


Once he was a road block, and now he’s a threat. Fraser McReight might not see it that way but how else to explain the past and future presence of Michael Hooper in the young flanker’s career?

McReight was outstanding in the No.7 jersey as the Wallabies conquered the Springboks in Adelaide, bustling energy and desire backed up with two deserved tries that he celebrated with a typical burst of passion.

How does he feel to score a try in Wallaby gold?

“I feel amped, feel pumped up,” McReight says. “The first one was off a fast start and we haven’t had one of them this year and then second one was more about open play and putting them to the sword. That’s what we wanted to do. We didn’t want to fall back, we wanted to keep pumping them and I thought we did that.”

When he got the rooms later there was a text from Hooper. The skipper may be on “mindset” leave but he’s still in contact with the teammates he farewelled on a tough tour of Argentina.

 “He brought up the two tries I got so he’s probably sitting at home wishing he had scored those,” McReight said.

“He’ll be right and hopefully he comes back soon. I miss him and I want to keep learning off him. You know, he’s one of the greats so hopefully he comes back soon.”

It is the big question in Wallaby rugby right now. Will Hoops return and if so, when?

McReight can’t answer that, but knowing that Hooper could walk back through the door when he’s ready, and slot straight back into the place McReight now occupies, must be hard to get his mind around.

“Not really,” he counters. “I think I had planned in my mind that he was going to play this series, was going to play until he could.

“It was more about biding my time and knowing that if an opportunity was to happen …via injury or whatever, not anything like this, that I would play well enough that I could keep a spot.

“Like I said to him I just want to do him proud, do the jersey proud, do the team proud. He’s been wearing that jersey for decades, so it was a big honour.”

Fraser McReight of the Wallabies celebrates after scoring a try during The Rugby Championship match between the Australian Wallabies and the South African Springboks at Adelaide Oval on August 27, 2022 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Fraser McReight of the Wallabies celebrates after scoring a try. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

McReight said he never felt the urge to try his luck overseas due to the considerable talent standing in his way to a Wallabies jersey. Instead, he focussed on being ready when the chance eventually came.

“I’m young – Hoops is young too – but he’s got eight years on me so his clock was running and my clock was just beginning so I knew that there was going to be a [time].

“It’s more about sticking in on the tough days and knowing that rewards would come.”

Now he has grabbed the chance he’s embracing it.

“It’s just a big, big learning curve and lots of developing on and off the field and just understanding what Test footy is all about,” McReight said.

“You learn a lot and it’s developing as a player and as a person. I’m loving being in the side, being around the group and seeing what it’s like on the other side.”

Clearly Hooper has his doubters in the fan base, which tends to create the impression that McReight is more advanced than he actually is.

McReight owes plenty to the skipper.

“Competing with Hoops for two and a half years was very good for my development in terms of just seeing how he preps,” McReight said. “He’s a soldier of the game, a great at the game, and to see how it goes day to day and how he back up from game to game.

“We’re two different players, but being his apprentice and learning from him has been wonderful for me.”

McReight was one of Australia’s best on the Australia A campaign during the England series, and has continued rolling on his strong form from Super Rugby.

“You can’t get away with stuff here that you can get away with in Super,” said McReight. “You’re a lot more under the microscope here and every little detail gets picked up so you’ve just got to be more aware of your job and doing a job correctly – nail down your job and it will go a long way towards winning a game.”

Coach Dave Rennie was impressed: “He’s really grabbed his opportunity on the back of good work done in front of him, too. A hell of an effort for a young 7 to get a double today, and he got his hand on the pill post tackle.”

While McReight was a powerhouse against the Boks, he wasn’t the only one.

Marika Koroibete shifted the tension with his massive try saving tackle and it left McReight feeling “pumped”.

Marika Koroibete of the Wallabies makes a break to score a try during The Rugby Championship match between the Australian Wallabies and the South African Springboks at Adelaide Oval on August 27, 2022 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Marika Koroibete. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

“He’s a gun. I love seeing Marika smash into some other wingers to show them who’s boss,” he said.

“We were under the pump as forwards, their maul was doing really well against us and there was a few tough minutes there but Marika’s tackle just showed the character within the group.

“It was a job that had to be done and that’s sort of our mantra is, we’ve got to do our job and he did it really well. And from that we’re able to play.”

In all the fuss around his tackle, Koroibete was staying typically chill.

“The tackle had to be made,” Koroibete said. “We got a man in the bin and I have to cover his side and make that cover (tackle). We spoke this week about effort and working for each other. The forwards do their job, ruck, mauling and those sort of things and backs we have to do our job.”

Rennie couldn’t be more effusive in his praise.

“He’s incredible. And what you see on Saturdays is what you see every day training. He is just full on,” Rennie raved. “If we kick a ball, he is full pace chasing everything. His work ethic is phenomenal – I haven’t seen another winger like him.

“He’s not a big man but he’s powerful and he’s all over the park. Have a look at his numbers. They’re outrageous.”





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