When a fresh-faced 18-year-old from Crows Nest was announced as the latest Australian Sevens recruit last July by then coach Geraint John, few could have expected Henry Hutchison to have the impact he has had on the game.
Fans that attended the Bledisloe Cup match last year would have seen Hutchison – who has been in the ARU’s Pathway to Gold program since he was 14 - pull on the national Sevens jersey for the first time when Australia eased past Japan in a curtain-raiser to the main event.
Hutchison wrapped up the win with a jinking run late on.
“Remember the name” tweeted Iain Payten from The Daily Telegraph after the try was scored.
Hutchison was initially selected for the Boys team that would represent Australia at the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa. However, such was the impression he made on interim Men’s Head Coach Tim Walsh that Hutchison was withdrawn from the trip to Apia and elevated to the senior squad’s tour to Rotorua that culminated in a six-match series against the New Zealand Sevens side.
Australian Youth Boys Coach Hugh Carpenter recalls: “It was tough to lose Henry for Samoa but at the same we were immensely proud.”
Six weeks later, Hutchison again impressed, taking out the MVP Award in the Cup Final as the Aussie Thunderbolts won a star-studded Central Coast Sevens event in Wyong, New South Wales.
Walsh had by now seen enough of the teenager to entrust him with a spot in the squad for the critical Oceania Regional Olympic Qualifier in Auckland. Only a tournament win would see Australia qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Hutchison once again showed maturity beyond his years, scoring in the Cup Final as Australia stormed to qualification with a 50-0 demolition of Tonga.
Hutchison made his HSBC World Series debut a month later at a sold-out Cape Town Stadium as a replacement, scoring with his first touch in the 45-0 win over Portugal. His three-try effort in South Africa was repeated in Wellington before a five-try haul in Sydney – including a sudden-death extra-time try against England – put Hutchison firmly in the public spotlight.
Three tries in Las Vegas and four in Vancouver followed as Australia’s World Series campaign gathered momentum. It hasn’t been all plain-sailing as a foot injury ruled Hutchison out of the trips to Hong Kong and Singapore. However, he returned in Paris and crossed over four more times to take his season tally to 22 with one tournament – at Twickenham – remaining.
Of Hutchison, Australian Men’s Sevens captain Ed Jenkins said: “He’s been a huge part of our team with Pama Fou out injured and he’s taken his opportunity. Obviously a stand-out tournament for him was Sydney when he scored tries at crucial times in crucial games. He still has a lot to learn of course but he’s doing all the right things.
“It’s safe to say he’s pushing very hard for a spot for Rio.”
King Henry, as FOX SPORTS commentator Sean Maloney memorably called him in Vancouver in March, is ready to rule.
World Rugby will announce the winner of the Rookie of the Year award on Monday morning (AEST) following the London Sevens. Bautista Ezcurra (Argentina), Pheonix Hunapo-Nofoa (Samoa) and Regan Ware (New Zealand) are the other nominees.