Wallabies coach Michael Cheika first saw Dane Haylett-Petty in France, playing for Biarritz in the Top 14.
Cheika was coaching against Haylett-Petty and fellow Aussie Tala Gray and the Perth junior caught his eye.
“It’s been really interesting for me because I saw him first playing for Biarritz when I was coaching over in Paris,” he said.
“There was himself and Tala Gray, two young Aussie lads, and he looked like a fine player.”
That Haylett-Petty opted to come back to Perth was a sign he was ready to work towards his potential, Cheika said.
“He came back to Australia and has invested in himself to try to be the best he can be and right now he’s competing in what is a competitive position for us and it only going to get more competitive.
“Dane’s forced his way in there now and I think he’s really adapted well and that’s been proven by his continued selections.”
Cheika is now demanding more from Haylett-Petty, playing him on the wing for Australia and it’s a move that the natural fullback said he was still adjusting to.
Haylett-Petty was the standout fullback in Super Rugby this season, but with Israel Folau’s stranglehold on the Wallabies 15 jersey, the 27-year-old was shifted to the edges.
If Folau were to move to the centres as he has for the Waratahs, Haylett-Petty would be the obvious choice to fill the fullback role but it’s a switch that Michael Cheika has all but ruled out for now.
While Haylett-Petty admitted fullback would be more familiar he was only focusing on maximising his influence on the wing.
“I think I'm probably more confident as a fullback, that's where I've played most of my rugby,” he said.
“I think definitely playing on the wing at the moment is in the long run going to make me a better full back.
"If he decides to keep Izzy there for the long term, then I'll hopefully develop into a really world-class winger...and if I ever get the opportunity at fullback, I'd love that too."
Defence has been one of the greatest obstacles for Haylett-Petty in his transition to the edges, but it’s given him a new perspective in rugby.
“I think probably the defensive pictures that you see there are totally different, so probably the defensive side of the game that I'm working on will eventually help me as a fullback but just enjoying playing on the wing at the moment,” he said.
“On the weekend, I didn't get too much ball, all the action was down the other side but I’m enjoying it.”
The fluid nature of the Wallabies defensive structure means no player is stagnant and Cheika said he wanted to breed a group of players that relished that challenge.
“In the game, you end up in different positions by nature,” he said.
“We want wingers to come in off their wing and get involved and they’ve got to be able to balance between getting in there and staying out, getting back out to their position to finish, which is what they do.
“(They) rotate around in defence, different positions and you’ve got to love that.”
And that is Haylett-Petty’s next challenge, imposing himself wherever he plays.
“At fullback you get so many opportunities with the ball, on the wing it kind of comes and goes,” he said.
“You flow kind of in and out of the game, so that's a new challenge for me but one I'm enjoying.
“I’m just still learning where I fit into the attacking side of things and where I need to go to get the ball and... the more ball I can get, the better.”
Haylett-Petty will return to the Force’s home ground for the first time since the end of the Super Rugby season this week, in his first Wallabies outing on home turf.
The Wallabies host the Pumas on Saturday, kicking off at 8:05pm AEST. Tickets here.