Dempsey's year over before Spring Tour starts

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Jack Dempsey’s 2017 season is over, after the flanker suffered a serious leg injury in the Wallabies victory over the Barbarians

Dempsey looked to have finally shaken off his injury demons, after missing most of the Super Rugby season with a fractured leg, but poor fortune struck again.

There were reports the Waratahs backrower had torn his hamstring off the bone, but Cheika was reluctant to go into specifics, with his player still in serious pain post-match.

“I don’t think that would be an accurate assumption, It’s so fresh,” he said.

“Whatever it is, it’s serious. When I say serious, there’s no doubt he’ll be out of the tour.

“And he’s in a fair bit of pain in there too, so let’s just see what happens with it. It’s unfortunate his season’s over.

“He’s a young fella who’s coming up too through the ranks.

“He’s not going to forget how to play footy between now and next year.

“He’ll have a chance to have a bigger preseason now and get himself right.

The 23-year-old has been one of Australia’s best in recent weeks and on Saturday coach Michael Cheika said they could not have won without him.

His form makes the latest injury blow doubly painful, with skipper Nick Phipps saying the rising star was devastated after the game.

“He’s pretty upset, he worked super hard to come back from his last injury,” he said.

“He’s had a tough year already through some injuries so he’s obviously pretty upset but he’s surrounded by some great blokes, some great players around there, a lot of boys going and having a chat with him.

“No doubt with their support he’ll be back bigger and better next year.”

Australia’s injury worries don’t end with Dempsey - Lukhan Tui came off after 35 minutes with a hamstring injury and Cheika threw doubt over Rory Arnold’s fitness for the tour, with the lock still battling to overcome a corked knee he suffered in the NRC.

Tui’s injury could be the most decisive when it comes to determining who departs on Spring Tour this week, with Cheika tempted to take the Reds rookie if his injury is on the less serious side.

On the positive, Cheika was full of praise for teenage backrower Liam Wright, who came off the bench having never played Super Rugby, and experienced campaigner Ben McCalman, who made a big impact late after replacing Tui.

McCalman hasn’t played a Test since the opening Bledisloe last year and played less than a half of Super Rugby this season, with shoulder and thumb injuries.

The latest turn of events, though, shortens his odds of joining the tour as well.

Cheika said he was yet to decide whether he would be taking a development player on the tour, with no mid-week games for them to feature in, but is potentially tempted to take one on the month-long trip.

Duncan Paia'aua scores a try against the Barbarians. Photo: WalmsleyDuncan Paia’aua would be one of those in the mix to join the tour, to continue learning as a flyhalf, Cheika pleased with the outing from the usual centre.

“It was a big ask of Duncan to come in and run the game he’s never played this shape before it’s different,” he said..

“I wanted to give him that experience and talk to him after and see if it’s something he can grow into because he’s got a sharp football mind, he’s a threat himself, scored a try and made a couple of other breaks.

“He should be much more self-confident about his ability that guy because he’s a class player.”

It’s not just Wallabies in the mix though, with Taqele Naiyaravoro and even Tom Banks putting their hats in the ring for a squad call-up, after impressive outings.

Cheika will announce his Spring Tour squad on Sunday, before the squad leaves for Japan on Tuesday night.