Last year was ‘heartbreaking’ for Jack McGregor, but the rising flyhalf is hungrier than ever to make an impact in 2017.
McGregor, the 2015 Australian Schoolboys captain, entered his first year of senior rugby with the world at his feet, but a ruptured ACL put a stop to that, ending his season prematurely.
The timing, he says, feels now like a blessing in disguise, fully fit to have a serious crack at the Australia and U20s World Championships, joining the national camp on the Gold Coast this week.
“I was hoping for a big year and I was pretty excited to play,” he said.
“Then to do it at the very start was pretty heartbreaking but also kind of good timing because it meant I could take off the whole year and do all my rehab properly and come back for this year at full fitness.
“Having a year out of the game and watching the boys on the sidelines, it’s always tough.
“Every time I'm training or get an opportunity to play the game I'm always giving 100 per cent because I know what it feels like to be on the other side.”
McGregor was still handed a Super Rugby contract ahead of 2017 with the Rebels, despite not playing a minute, an opportunity for which he feels indebted to the club.
“For them to put the vote of confidence and faith in me was really exciting and humbling, so I'm just trying to give back to them for trusting in my rehab and giving me an opportunity like this at a young age,” he said.
Living with Rebels 2016 boom recruit Reece Hodge has shown McGregor first hand how quickly success can come if you play your cards right.
“It's just the off-field stuff - eating well, recovering well - just doing the little things, like staying back at the club and watching film,” he said.
“(It’s just about) always trying to maximise your time when you're there at the club, not just loaf around and just try get through the day, but try maximising every hour doing something - meeting with coaches or preparing well.”
Australia U20s coach Simon Cron said McGregor’s professionalism had come through in this week’s camp, with higher expectations on playmakers.
“I thought Jack was very professional around the questions he asked,” he said.
“The first fives, they had to have the ability to understand a lot of the information because they are the coach on the field.
“I pushed those boys and I thought he was good with that.”
McGregor grew up watching Dan Carter and Stephen Larkham ply their trades and in recent years it’s Beauden Barrett and Irish 10 Jonny Sexton who have inspired him.
He might get a step closer to the Barretts later this month, with Jordie named in the New Zealand U20s squad, though his Super Rugby form might keep him out of the Oceania competition.