The Rise and Rise of Kurtley Beale

The Rise and Rise of Kurtley Beale

The Rise and Rise of Kurtley Beale

A jigsaw could be described as a tiling puzzle that requires the assembly of interlocking pieces.

That may also describe the selection of the Wallaby squad for next year’s Rugby World Cup – it’s going to be something of a jigsaw.

I guess we’d all confidently say that David Pocock, Rocky Elsom, Nathan Sharpe, Will Genia and Quade Cooper will be a number of those interlocking pieces.

A month or so ago you wouldn’t have said the same about Kurtley Beale? But the landscape for him has changed markedly in that brief period of time.

One of the puzzling things is why it took him so long to make his mark in Super 14 and international rugby after such a stellar schoolboy career?

An indigenous scholarship holder at Joeys, Beale won three GPS Premierships and eight caps for the Australian Schoolboys as a five eighth.

He was described as one of the greatest schoolboy players we’ve ever seen (and not forgetting his sprinting prowess: 2005 U16 GPS 100m 11.6 sec).

He went straight from schoolboy rugby to the Waratahs where he made his debut in the Super 14 in 2007.

Since that time he’s had his ups and downs in Super 14, never quite fully realising that immense potential until recently.

He started off as a five eighth but like other schoolboy sensations (QC comes to mind) it took him quite some time to adapt to the adult game.

The footwork and skillset that dominates at schoolboy level just couldn’t be replicated in the Super 14 and he didn’t quite have that consistent QC-like cutout pass that five eighths probably need.

He played an instinctive, ad hoc, shapeless style of rugby which may not have necessarily suited the team. He was still a kid developing his game management skills and expectations were way too high.

An area he really had to work on was defence. It got to the stage where he was hidden from the big boys who deliberately ran down his channel with Lote Tuquri or Cliffy Palu covering for him.

He was also given the goalkicking responsibilities but his success rate hovered around the 60% mark and this seemed to sap his confidence. He was one of those players you’d call ‘mercurial’.

His move to inside centre during the 2009 season was just what the doctor ordered. He eased seamlessly into the position and played a good half a dozen matches at IC.

Three of those were on tour in South Africa which the Tahs won and he seemed to have found his natural spot.

He was selected on the Wallaby Spring Tour last year as a utility and made his test debut from the bench against Wales on the wing. This came as a surprise to many for a guy who’d been nicknamed ‘Portley’ by some.

This year he started Super 14 again at inside centre but was moved to fullback to cover for an under-performing Sosene Anesi.

He went from strength to strength and he played his way into the first Wallaby test of the year against Fiji.

The Koori kid from Mt Druitt has grabbed all his opportunities with both hands this year. Firstly against the big boys as a sub v Ireland and then the last four Tri-Nations tests.

I have to admit that along with many others from outside NSW I wasn’t convinced he’d be a raging success as an international fullback.

(Punishment 100 lines: “Tom Carter should be the Wallaby No 12, Tom Carter should be the Wallaby No 12, Tom Carter should be the Wallaby No 12….”)

But now I’m a true believer!

The ‘new thinking’ in rugby circles which seems to have changed the way we’ve been playing the game recently has been a boon for his footy.

His defence has smartened up and he’s now making try saving tackles at the rear. You can tell he’s taking his rugby seriously with a new maturity, high workload and the Bill Young weight loss program….

The only niggling concern left is his ability under the high ball. In Europe later this year I guarantee it’ll be raining Garryowens as the Poms and others test his mettle.

But on the hallowed turf of HQ, KB and his new test team-mates are going to be an attacking sensation. Mark my words.

In South Africa, that goal really was the defining moment. Gilbert, the Bloem Bombshell, will have that kick imprinted into his head forever.

More G&GR articles on Gilbert Beale:


Kurtley Beale and Quade Cooper – Australia v NZ Schoolboys 2006 (and some other very interesting names)

  • I never doubted ;-)

  • Lance Free

    “Luke Burgess should be the Wallaby No 9, Luke Burgess should be the Wallaby No 9, Luke Burgess should be the Wallaby No 9….”,

  • RedsRugbyFan

    I cant wait for spring tour :)

  • Good stuff Lance, although I hope you’re not trying to take my mantle as president of the G&GR KB supporters club!

    One piece of history that people forget (and Link and Djuro wanged on about in the last Ruggamatrix) is that Gilbert guided the Tahs to the 2008 S14 final, and had them 2 tries to 1 up when he left the field through injury.

    That injury ruled him out of the EOYT – leaving him at home to eat KFC with a crocked ankle – opening the gate for Quade. The rest is history.

    Another good point that Link made is that should anything happen to QC, Gilbert would actually make a pretty good like for like swap at 10. I think he’s well and truly in the set up.

    • Jason

      Exactly! That injury in the 2008 final was a big turning point in the respective careers of KB and QC.

      Can’t wait for the EOYT…the last two years have been pretty good to us expats, so here’s to another big win at HQ.

    • Lance Free

      I think that now he’s matured he’d be more reliable in any of those positions – inside centre, five eighth and of course fullback where he’s blossoming. Thrown into Super 14 straight from school with huge expectations, especially at pivot, is a big ask. Similar to QCs experience where it took him those few years to develop.

      • Rocky Elboa

        QC also had the luxury of only playing at 10 and 12 and having Barnes around to help him develop.

  • jay-c

    im right behind the kb into 5/8 shoud anything happen to quade
    maybe into inside center to partner quade> apparntly they did some pretty spectacular stuff in schoolboys together thou i believe it might have been kb at 5/8 nd quade at inside for schooboys
    what i find funny i how when kb and quade burst on the scene all the qld followers claimed that quade had it over kurtley because of his defense… havnt herd that arguement in a while
    but how do u solve a problem like ashley-cooper… nt gunna get any gametime at for the brumbiesand cant leave him off the wallaby field but i think chambers will make the better 13 for wc…

  • Langthorne

    KB, QC, JO’C are all very young and very talented, and their attainments to date have been amazing.

    Like many of us, I saw Beale playing as a 15 year old and despite my tendency for cynicism, I was impressed. The thing that impressed me most was his bravery – he would run into heavy traffic, dive onto loose balls in the face of opposition forward packs, and generally put himself in harm’s way for the cause – and all against players 2 or 3 years his senior. That attitude, coupled with his amazing skills and instincts, can make him one of the greats.

    One thing I didn’t realise until this season is that he is a confidence player. He can kick for goal very well, but hasn’t until recently realised his ability in the senior level. His punt kicking has been amazing since school, but although his numbers are some of the best in Australia it wasn’t until the match last weekend that he has pulled out one of the 60m+ punts I knew he was capable of for the Wallabies. He can tackle very well too, as long as he doesn’t revert to the method of trying to stay on his feet and not using his shoulder. One reason his defence has been occassionally suspect is that each position has its own demands when it comes to defence, and each position needs to be learnt (see also JO’C on the wing).

    Kurtley will still attempt things that don’t come off, but he will achieve things that nobody else would even attempt, let alone have the ability to do.

    • Andrew

      “One reason his defence has been occassionally suspect is that each position has its own demands when it comes to defence, and each position needs to be learnt (see also JO’C on the wing). ”

      Oh so very true. I’m a fan of JOC in attack but the AB’s and Boks were right in focusing much of their attack down his wing and sadly I think if he’d received some better defensive coaching they might now have been scored. A lot of the tries scored against the WB’s seemed to be a result of very poor organisation and communication in defence – guys coming up out of the line or not trusting their inside man. That really shouldn’t be an issue at that level – but if you have someone new to a position and in two minds – that’s a weakness the better sides will exploit

  • Gumby

    Lance. I’ve always been a KB believer since watching him in his school days. Had he been playing for a more adventurous team in his early Super 14 days he may well have been establiished in the Wallabies well before this. He has been pretty well a wasted talent at the Tahs.

    However it is very satisfying to see his Wallaby Career really taking off and if he stays at Full Back there will be comparisons made to Cullen eventually regarding attacking prowess and Burke for being the whole package. Mind you he could play just about anywhere in the backline.

    The best is yet to come from KB and I’m looking forward to witnessing it.

  • Roland

    This guy is rubbish. 6 bad games and 2 ok games does not make him a good player. It makes him an inconsistant weak defender who can’t take high balls. Why are we talking up his defense. Being the 14th best defender of 15 people does not make him a good defender. You NSW love pulling eachothers cocks about the great school boy talnt you produce. This guy is no pockock, JOC, genia or QC. That is for sure. Sounds like your all playing favourites down there in the big smoke.

    • Dally M

      Lol…you diss KB’s defense in the same breath you talk up QC.

      Gee, let me guess, you are a QLD’er?

    • Andrew

      Are you fuckin kidding me Roland? Of Cause he’s no pocock – different fucking position einstein. Do you think Pocock would have banged that one over from 56 mtrs?

      He’s no JOC? compare their tackle stats from the last game. JOC alone has been responsible for more defensive blunders than any other WB this year that have been directly responsible for opp tries.

      Better still compare KB’s tackles stats against QC’s for the last game. How many did KB miss? Now tell me how many QC missed? To use your favorite phrase, you clearly don’t know your rugby

    • Lance Free

      I’m from Queensland Roland and he’s not rubbish. I think he’s going to end up a very competent and exciting player (with more development, sure).

    • Gumby

      Dumb, ignorant comment Roland.. You will cringe when you read what you have written in 12 months.

  • I was still hesitant about his role as fullback, despite being sold on him from schoolboy days. I know think he is (as I said on the forum) almost Latham like. Now, he’s not there yet, but that last All Black test was very Latham-esque. He doesn’t have the massive punt, but there was that pressure relieving round the corner clearing kick from his in-goal. There was the fantastic cover defence on Nonu herding him into touch. Then there was the fact that he tended to beat the first defender almost every time.

    Of course, as Bob Dwyer has said, his ability under the high ball is questionable (and no where near Latham’s quality). But he has the skills, and thats one he can work on.

    I’m stoked his showing this skill. It is fantastic to watch.

  • Gooch

    I agree tha the expectations on KB coming from schoolboys to S14 were too high. It may be because of this that I have never been a really big fan of his, but, I think this season he has really improved. I don’t know if it’s a maturity thing but he seems to fit in much better now. His defence is slowly improving, he needs alot of work under the high ball but his impact in attack and counter-attack are his strong points. Credit to him, he seems to have got back the fitness and pace he showed before his Portley days.

  • Mark

    His talent has never been in doubt, he just needed time and opportunity to develop. Two things he was never given at the Waratahs. The Waratahs persist with this ridiculous mindset of sticking with average at best ‘safe’ players (i.e. Carter) rather than giving game time and opportunity to guys with tremendous talent and potential (i.e. Beale, Tahu) because they would rather be safe and average than make some short term sacrifice for long term talent development and gain. The minute Beale has got some actual game time and consistent starts (which Cooper has had for 3 years now in QLD) his development has been incredible and his talent which was obvious to everyone except the Tahs coaching staff has emerged. As a kid out of school he was always going to make mistakes before he hit his potential, he just needed game time iron thise out.

    • Hawko

      I think its unfair to criticise the “NSW coaching staff” for not recognising his talent. Link put him into 10 for the Super final against the Crusaders and was rewarded for doing so until he was cruelly injured.

      As much as I don’t like to personalise attacks, Kurtleys problems have been down to Chris Hickeys inability to pick and develop him. The problem is Hickey’s totally conservative and safety-first nature. Kurtley is a genius player who is going to have off days and make mistakes. You have to be prepared for that and teach him to become more reliable player while not inhibiting his talents. Had Hickey been NSW coach when Mark Ella first came on the scene he would have suffered the same fate. Hickey is the ideal coach of an ordinary team with reliable but lacklustre players. He just cannot come to grips with genuine mercurial talent and would select Dan Parks at 10 over Quade Cooper every time.

      For all my criticism of Deans (totally justified of course, ha ha) his recognition of talent and handling of Beale has been fabulous. He has single-handedly rejuvenated his career (remember the wing pick on the last EOYT) and the result is that Kurtley is now one of our first picks for the Wallabies. One has been the saviour of the other and Kurtley this year has repaid in full.

      • Rob42

        And why was Robbie free to pick KB at 15? Because he’d seen him deilver in that position at the Tahs, thanks to Chris Hickey.

        • Hawko

          I think he got three games at FB in the regular season plus a semi. For most of the comp “no mistakes because I don’t do anything” Anesi was FB and Kurtley was either at 12 or on the bench.

        • Gumby

          Hickey picked Beale at 15 out of desperation not inspiration. He has been a big disappointment as the Coach of a team which had the talent to win the Super 14 but not the game plan or self belief.

          Up to that point I doubt if he even recognised the untapped potential that Beale offered the Tahs. I don’t think he wouldn’t know talent if he fell over it in broad daylight on an empty Rugby Field. Thank Deans for having the belief in Beale’s unique abilities, not Hickey.

      • Mark

        Hawko that’s pretty much exactly what I was saying. An overley conservative coach with an inability to select and develop KB resulting in a career that has been primarily bits and pieces of games off the bench and in different positions. He has always been talented, it’s just that until recently his development has been neglected by coaches who haven’t recognised his talent and the importance of backs with his type of talent to NSW and oz rugby.

      • Richo

        Mostly I think you’re right, but you have to give credit to Hickey for putting KB in at 15 this season. Gave the Tahs the spark they needed and turned things around for the young bloke.

  • Dally M

    Every time he has been allowed to settle into a position, he has excelled.

    He has just been chopped & changed so often, i think he started to doubt himself & the expectations everyone had of him.

  • Timbo

    I’ve known about him only since his S14 debut but have been a fan ever since. Especially when he beaned Cory Jane with a rubbish clearing kick. I can watch that over and over and still not get tired of it.

    The Waratahs outside backs are looking so strong for next year.

    • Knock yourself out, so to speak

      • Jay

        Every time I see that clip I’m amazed how flexible Jane’s left knee is.

  • Lance Free

    If you haven’t seen it before I’ve just inserted a clip in the post proper (above) of KB, QC, Ben McCalman, Rob Simmons, Dan Palmer, Rod Davies and Peter Betham for Oz Schoolboys 2006 against NZ Schools with Zac Guildford, Sam Whitelock, Winston Stanley, Daniel Kirkpatrick and Luke Braid. KB weaves a little bit of magic about…sadly we lose.

  • Roland

    Andrew, you clearly don’t know your rugby. Defense wise KB is the second worst in the wallabies and the guy who is the worst more then makes up for it with his ball in hand work. Love KB’s chip kick to gitea when all that was needed was hands, also love his passing from halfback, and can someone tell him this ain’t soccer and we don’t use headbutts. Thank fuck this joker hasn’t decided he wants to play AFL. Still yet to see him take a single high ball. He’s a fucking girl. He would be running the water if I was head coach.

  • Groucho

    Following on from Gagger’s piece today, there is a new style of bogan-esque bitterness in Australian rugby and it ain’t pretty to see. There was a time when everyone would be excited about new Wallaby talent, and hope for the sake of the team that they’d succeed. There are some arseholes on here who would clearly love to see KB fail. :-(

  • Gumby

    How the hell anyone puts provincial bias above the good of the National Team buggers me Groucho. In the case of KB this mentality can only be stupidity or bigotry.

    Stupidity because they can’t see the obvious talent and ability and can’t work out how utilising that for the benefit of Australian Rugby is a good thing. Don’t need to explain the other I hope.

  • Hogan

    ‘Bill Young weight loss program’???

  • Hogan

    Oh and did anyone else laugh out loud reading Josh Rakic’s article in the SMH today?

    WTF rugby planet is he living on???

    A ‘modest’ Tom Carter.
    Carter – ‘one of the Waratahs’ most consistent performers last season and a renowned hard-hitter.’

    Are you kidding me??? I know this commment doesn’t relate to this article at all but in terms the 100 punishment lines it does.

    • Groucho

      I’m convinced Tom Carter is the secret love child of Rupert Guinness and Grumbles Growden.

      Fortunately (well, comparatively fortunately) he inherited Rupert’s looks and Grumbles’ brains. Imagine the tragic creature that would’ve resulted otherwise. :-|

    • Groucho

      Erm, Hogan that article was intended to be tongue-in-cheek. They often do jokey pieces in that style, bless-em.

  • Pedro

    Roland you clearly don’t know soccer, they’re called headers not head butts (unless you’re zenidine zidan).


Roscoe Tims (aka @LanceFree): A nasty, opinionated little man whose views are indeed narrow with a capital 'N'. Favourite Sport: mungo bashing. Does he ever have anything positive to say?

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