Around the Fringes – Brendan McKibbin
Photo: SPA Images
It took him a bit longer than anticipated, but after making his HSBC Waratahs debut in the season opener against the Melbourne Rebels, scrumhalf Brendan McKibbin is keen to cement his position in the matchday 22. After a standout season in the 2010 Shute Shield with Eastern Suburbs, the Ken Catchpole Medal winner was chomping to show that he could crack it.
“I was really confident with my performances and my consistency through last year, so it was frustrating that I didn’t get on the field in 2010,” McKibbin said. “However, the consistency was noticed and the coaching staff were happy with me and that’s why I was upgraded to the two year deal.”
McKibbin grew up in Brisbane and came through the Queensland Reds Academy but willingly declared his allegiance to NSW after moving down in late 2009. The fresh deal vindicates his decision to move south and the interest shown by the Waratahs coaching staff to entice him away.
“The opportunity to come down to Sydney came after Michael Foley and Scott Bowen called me up and said that they were interested. They had watched a few games and they were keen to get me down and challenge for the scrumhalf spot,” he added.
“They thought that I could do that a little more being a part of the Junior Waratahs and playing in the Sydney club competition which has paid off so I’m really happy about that.”
It’s a decision he hasn’t regretted. He’s enjoying living in Sydney, he’s happy at Eastern Suburbs and he’s loving life at the Waratahs. For him, rugby is one big learning process and there’s no better place to go to school.
“The coaching staff make you feel wanted and they have a very good background. You’ve also got a bunch of Wallabies based here so from a player’s point of view, you’re playing and training with good people which can only make you a better player.”
So, what can Waratah fans expect from McKibbin? Enthusiasm by the bucketload for starters. Watch him celebrate every try – either on the field or from the sideline – as if he’d just won a Grand Final. It’s infectious and a vital part of his role in the wider squad.
He also possesses a box of tricks that anyone who saw his exploits at Easts last year will know well. An unexpected crossfield kick on the run for a waiting winger to score, the penalty attempt where he ignored the posts and audaciously kicked to the corner or even the time he launched himself ‘gridiron style’ for the tryline over a collapsed ruck – all examples of his willingness to try something.
“Well, I guess if you ever get to a stage where you’re happy with your game then I always say to myself – give it up. You’re always wanting to improve, always wanting to try new things and some things might work for certain players or certain scrumhalves but might not work for me, so I’m constantly trying different things on the field.”
Those ‘different things’ may not always come off, but it’s the very nature of his willingness to try that may just offer the Waratahs that X factor that turn defeat into victory. The Waratahs are blessed with an abundance of riches at no.9 with Wallaby Luke Burgess and the equally adept Josh Holmes fighting for their spot and while competition amongst all three is good natured, it’s also deadly serious.
“We’re not all the same typical scrumhalf. We don’t just run, we don’t just pass, everyone’s got a unique style about their game. In some areas the others might be better in passing or kicking, which we’re developing in every training session and feeding off each other, so I think that’s really important.
“We get along quite well and have good banter but when it comes down to it, we’re all vying for that one spot, that no.9 jersey, and when we get given the opportunity, we’ve really got to take it with both hands.”
Should McKibbin get further opportunity in 2011, expect him to make full use of it.
Original version published in the NSW Waratahs v Lions match program on March 11th, 2011