Bill Meakes came back to Australia with a Wallabies debut as his ultimate goal and the centre is one step closer to achieving that dream.
Meakes was brought into Wallabies camp when he first arrived back in Australia close to a year ago but hadn’t featured since, despite a relatively consistent season for the Force.
“This is where I wanted to get to but to actually get here was another thing,” he said.
“Cheik actually spoke to me as as soon as I moved over and invited me to one of the camps earlier on, which was great to be a part of and a real eye-opener in terms of what it takes to get here.”
Meakes said he felt being a part of a player-driven leadership group at the Force had helped him take his game to the level needed to get to another Wallabies camp.“(Force coach) Dave Wessels put me into that (leadership) role straight away and it’s something I’ve enjoyed growing into and something I’ll enjoy doing going forward,” he said.
“He got this leadership group together, there was about nine of us, including some of the guys here (in camp), we’d catch up every couple of weeks, sit down and talk from a player’s point of view what we want to see from the coaches and the coaches vice versa,” he said.
“It was really good to have a voice from the players and an input from the whole squad.
“To have that aspect is something I haven’t had before, so to be a part of it was definitely an eye-opener.”
Now that he’s in the national fold, in a group Michael Cheika says he will stick with for much of the year, Meakes might just have more opportunity than he first thought, after an injury to Karmichael Hunt.
“It’s devastating for him, he obviously had a great couple of Tests in June and he’s an outstanding player,” he said.
“I’d love to learn a lot off him but obviously it opens up a bit of a window for the other centres and myself so it’s not nice for him but for some of us it's quite nice to open up a spot.”
Cheika threw Meakes’ name into the mix after news of Hunt’s injury broke on Monday.
“We’ll just see how the guys go over this week. (Kurtley) Beale, (Reece) Hodge and we’ve got Billy Meakes who’s really had a good season who’s come in there as well," Cheika said.
“He’s a different type of player - he’s quite aggressive, quite in your face.”While there’s a sense of starting fresh in Wallabies camp, after an emotionally draining season in Perth, Meakes said the national side could draw on some of the 2017 season heading into the opening Bledisloe on August 19.
“I think just Australian rugby in general, regardless of the Force and Rebels guys, it's been a huge character-building year,” he said.
“The elephant in the room is (that) no one’s beat a Kiwi team so what an opportunity to beat a Kiwi team in a couple of weeks against the All Blacks.
“You can definitely take some positives out of the season and the desire to go and get one over them in a couple of weeks.”
The Wallabies are in camp in Newcastle until Saturday, breaking into state-based camps before joining up again in Cessnock, in the Hunter Valley.