Jack Dempsey has his sights set on a simple objective for 2017.
Ten impressive Super Rugby caps were enough to earn him a week in Wallabies camp this year, but he wants to ensure he cements himself as the NSW six next year, a spot that could be up for grabs with former skipper Dave Dennis joining Premiership side, Exeter.
“My focus going into 2017 is pretty simple,” he said.
“The higher honours aren’t that far away, so for me it’s just about working hard this pre-season before the Super season begins, and then my personal goal is to own that number six jersey.
“I just want to be consistently starting next year, that’s my personal goal and then anything else will come if I play well.”
While Dempsey has had a glimpse of the standards expected by the Wallabies, playing and training with a handful of Test players including NSW captain Michael Hooper, he says he’s not one to get ahead of himself.
“When you’re playing and training with guys that are consistent Wallabies like your [Michael] Hoopers and that, you know what it takes and you know if it’s within your own grasp,” he said.
“That’s my own motivation really, and it’s definitely a goal that is achievable at this current point.
“But at the moment I’m just playing my own game and taking it as it comes. It’s an exciting time but there’s no need to rush it.”
Just one look at his Super Rugby captain, Hooper, this season told him much about what it takes to be good enough for Test level, an influence that he has taken back to the Rays.
“For me just watching Hoop (Hooper) when you’re running alongside him on the field, it really just amps up your entire game,” he said.
“He doesn’t even have to say anything, just the way he leads as a player himself is just amazing.
“Then coming back towards the NRC it edges in a little bit and even though he’s not out on the field with us, it’s sort of engrained in the way you play, and that doesn’t really leave you.”
Born and raised in Sydney’s north, Dempsey has Test rugby in his blood, with his uncle Tony Dempsey a former back rower for the Wallabies and Waratahs.
While the 22-year-old says he isn’t bothered by the family legacy, he admitted it that it still loomed in his mind.
“It’s definitely a motivation…it’s that silent pressure in the background,” he said.
“I mean having an uncle who did pull on the gold jersey has definitely been a bit of a motivation, you want to follow in those footsteps to a certain degree.
“But it doesn’t come down to that external pressure or anything, it comes down to whether when you’re good enough and if you’re good enough.”
The Sydney Rays will host a semi-final against Perth Spirit this weekend, after finishing second overall to the NSW Country Eagles, the only side that has bested the Rays this year.
“[It’s] probably been the same story for us all year. We go in every week only worrying about ourselves, so we’re not too fussed about what Perth will bring or how they’ve been going,” he said.
“We’re just going to stick to our own processes, and what we’ve been doing all year, because it’s obviously been working.”
The Sydney Rays will play their semi-final on Sunday at 3pm at Pittwater Park against Perth Spirit.