McGregor, Rising building something special in Melbourne

by Brett McKay

They haven't quite finished the way they wanted to in their opening two games of the NRC but the amount of promising young talent in Melbourne Rising jerseys has certainly caught plenty of attention.

Right in the thick of is 20-year-old flyhalf Jack McGregor, whose ability and desire to run with the ball is infectious.

McGregor has already shown, in just 160 minutes, a level of playmaking maturity beyond his years.

That’s not for a moment to suggest he’s the finished product, though, and he’d be the first to admit he’s barely started his journey.

The young Rising side were right in the game with the Fijian Drua on Saturday at Harlequin Oval in Ashwood, in Melbourne’s south east, but McGregor is happy to admit the sheer size of the Fijians took the young Rising players by surprise.

“We knew coming into the game they were going to be quick but their physicality was definitely on a different level as well,” McGregor told this week.

“We stuck in at times and we were level with them in the second half it, then (it) literally took them six minutes to put three tries on us.

"A combination of speed and physicality, it was good style that they played with.”

Three converted tries, 21 points between the 57th and the 63rd minute.

For a young player, it becomes hard to catch your breath when you look up and the opposition is running past you again.

“Exactly,” McGregor said.

“It took us by surprise as we were playing some good footy there in patches and all it took was one dropped ball, or a little lapse in concentration, and they capitalised on it really quickly and as we saw they scored three tries back to back.”

In his three years in charge of the Rising, coach Zane Hilton has built a reputation of being a pretty calm guy who just gets on with the job.McGregor and the Rising gave the Spirit a scare in Perth. Photo: WalmsleyHe knows when his teams might need a bit of a rocket and he knows that sometimes games can just get away from teams through no real fault of their own.

McGregor confirmed this and said that Hilton has been pretty happy how his young side has competed in both games so far.

“Zane’s been really good with keeping our confidence high,” McGregor said.

“We are a young team with a lot of talent throughout the XV - we look to play wherever we can and play with confidence.

"As much as he wants to win, as we all do, he always reiterates that we want to play and have fun, as we all do.

"Obviously (it was) not the result we wanted but we took a lot of positives out of it and coming back to being able to put out 80 minute performance that we haven’t been able to do.

“We look at Perth Spirit, they scored two quick tries on us in the first five or 10 there and then against Fiji three tries in six minutes.

"It’s just those little lapses that we have had at the moment, but if we can put together eighty minutes of good footy we will be a hard team to stop.”Sione Tuipulotu, McGregor and Jack Maddocks are the future of the Rebels and Rising. Photo: WalmsleyThere’s been a little bit of discussion through the first few rounds on social media and in the rugby forums about the nice combination building between McGregor, Rising inside centre Sione Tuipulotu, and flyhalf-turned-fullback Jack Maddocks.

There is only six weeks between the trio but it turns out there’s a bit more to the combination than virtually shared birthdays.

“I have played with Jack a little bit in juniors (in NSW) and against him, so I knew his game pretty well,” McGregor revealed.

“But then Sione lived with me throughout the year as well and Jack only lived two minutes away.

"So, on our days off the three of us would be hanging out, going down to the park kicking the footy around.

"The combinations have come through that - just spending time with each other, watching rugby together and trying to learn off each other and what works for each other and try to play to that.”

The question remains, though, can three prodigiously talented young players just sit there and watch a game, or is there always an analytical angle at play?McGregor and the Rising are out to notch their first win against the Rays. Photo: Walmsley“If it’s the Wallabies or All Blacks we will watch it together, but we also love watching old clips and seeing what other guys do," McGregor said.

"The ones that have been successful through the years, we like watching their highlights and picking things out and then trying to replicate them.”

The Rising’s next test comes first up this Saturday against the Sydney Rays, kicking off round three at Pittwater Park on Sydney’s northern beaches.

While it will also be an opportunity for McGregor, the former St. Ignatius College Riverview student, to play in front of family and friends, it also pits two teams trying to work out where last week’s game got away from them.

“Exactly,” McGregor said.

“It will be an interesting clash because obviously we are both trying to fix up a part of our game.

"It will be a good week to test both our skills and see how we go in trying to fix our wrongs."

McGregor's Melbourne Rising face the Sydney Rays at Pittwater Park in Sydney on Saturday, kicking off at 3pm AEST, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS and on the FOX SPORTS app.