JWC path paved with gold for Genia
By Tracey Porter
To be labelled a superstar by the world's most capped player in history might be too heavy a burden for some 22-year-olds to bear, but Wallaby scrum half Will Genia is not one to get carried away by such high praise.
Instead of letting such a compliment go to his head, he simply shrugs off the accolade and merely states he is "pretty humbled" to even rate a mention alongside former Wallaby captain George Gregan.
Genia, though, is fast making a name for himself on the international stage with his quick-thinking, rugby intelligence and sniping around the breakdown keeping opponents constantly guessing his next move.
It is easy to forget Genia only made his test debut against New Zealand in last year's Tri Nations, having since gone on to establish himself as Australia's first choice number nine.
A year prior Genia was playing for Australia's Under 20s in the inaugural IRB Junior World Championship in Wales, alongside current Wallaby teammates David Pocock and Quade Cooper, and learning valuable lessons in the process.
"I remember being really excited about the fact that I did get to represent Australia," Genia told Total Rugby Radio.
"It was an amazing feeling. It doesn't matter whether you are playing for age group teams or whatever, whenever you get to wear your country's colours it is definitely an amazing feeling and one I have never forgotten and one that I will never forget.
"I think the lessons I learnt were leadership and responsibility in terms of rugby,. Having sort of played Super 14 already and then got the chance to play for the Australian Under 20 side I kind of took on a bit of a leadership role.
"I think that was really good for me and to an extent it probably helped me develop my game a little bit more, taking control in certain situations in particular parts of the field and things like that."
Genia has needed all that experience this year, becoming one of Queensland Reds' youngest ever captains and helping to re-energise their fortunes as they narrowly missed out on a Super 14 semi finals berth.
His leadership qualities with the Reds have many labelling him a future Wallaby captain, something that could happen sooner rather than later given coach Robbie Deans' willingness to hand promising youngsters their chance.
"He [Deans] has picked players like David Pocock, Kurtley Beale and Quade Cooper who have played in the 20s competition as well and have all taken that pathway.
"He has definitely been a major factor in giving us young guys an opportunity and I think probably a major factor in allowing the situation to work, allowing that developmental path to work."
Genia is the first to admit his elevation from the Under 20s to the Wallabies came sooner than anticipated, but was arguably timed to perfection with no sterner test for a first cap than facing the All Blacks on home soil.
"I hadn't even though about playing for the Wallabies to be honest, for it came so quickly after playing for the Australian Under 20 side. It was as much of a surprise as anything. I was really in shock.
"First test as a Wallaby in a Bledisloe Cup match when you are facing the haka. It was a night at the office too in the actual game, so I got five minutes off the bench, which was good, but they don't come tougher than that.
"To be honest you can't really describe the feeling [of facing the haka].
"I felt so honoured, I felt so privileged and I was on top of the world. Not only to be representing Australia but to be standing there facing the All Blacks and one of the most formidable sights in world rugby, the haka. I had goosebumps and I was in total shock and awe of what I was watching."
The Papua New Guinea-born scrum half may already have 11 test caps to his name as Australia prepare to face Fiji next weekend in Canberra, but he is not the only member of his immediate family to grace the international rugby stage.
His older brother Frankie wears the number nine jersey for the Papua New Guinea, while the younger Nigel has been playing for PNG's Under 20 side in the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy in Russia over the last fortnight.
With all three brothers playing in the same position and for two different countries it has made for some lively discussions around the dinner table and talk of what might happen if the two countries ever meet.
"It definitely gives us a talking point, something to talk about when we have nothing to talk about," admitted Genia, who was a late convert to rugby, only taking up the sport in his early teens.
"It has been great to be able to watch my older brother play for our country, and then my little brother do the same thing. I am definitely very proud and to have them, I guess, give me advice and likewise for me to give them advice is something that is very unique and something I appreciate.
"They always joke amongst themselves saying that if Papua New Guinea plays Australia they will beat us. We will have to see!"
Genia's parting advice for his younger brother was to have confidence in himself and not to be afraid to go out and show what he can do, the same words of wisdom he had for the latest crop of Australian Under 20s heading to Argentina.
"I think prepare as well as you can, do as much as you can to give yourself a chance of playing well, but at the end of the day it's all about the team and you have got to do what is best for your team - your team comes first.
"Back yourself, play what is in front of you and do your best, that's all you can do."
- South Africa
- New Zealand