Representative Honours: Australian Schoolboys 2004-2006; Australia A 2007, Australia Under-20s 2009, Australian Wallabies 2009-
Senior Tours: Japan & Europe 2009, Hong Kong & Europe 2010, RWC (New Zealand) 2011, Europe 2012
Electric NSW Waratahs playmaker KURTLEY BEALE has been at his high-flying best during a Super Rugby campaign that has the talented 25-year-old primed for a return to Test Rugby after he missed the majority of the Qantas Wallabies’ 2013 campaign through injury.
Beale played a role in Australia’s historic Test series against The British & Irish Lions – coming off the bench in the opening game before starting the second and third Tests at fullback – as he highlighted just how big of a threat he was with the ball in hand.
Unfortunately, the series would be the only times he would represent Australia in 2013, as Beale was ruled out for the remainder of the year after undergoing a shoulder reconstruction.
A change of environment from Melbourne to NSW for the 2014 season paid huge dividends for the Blacktown-born talent with his impressive form and growing combination with Israel Folau putting him straight back into the Test spotlight.
In 2012, Beale reminded all of his ability to produce when the chips are down, popping up in support of an attacking movement to score the try that broke Welsh hearts in the final moments of a tumultuous 2012 for the Qantas Wallabies.
The try, which allowed the Wallabies to send the retiring skipper Nathan Sharpe out a winner, continued the Beale career ‘romance’ with Cardiff, which was the venue where he made his long awaited introduction to Test ranks in 2009. It was also the second match winning moment by Beale in the final act of games in which he has participated during his colourful career to date.
He is certain to be forever linked to Australia’s historic and drought-breaking 41-39 win over South Africa on the high veldt at Bloemfontein in 2010. The match-winning long-range penalty goal on that occasion was just one of a number of golden acts that established the talented playmaker as one of the jewels of the Australian backline, a status added to towards the back end last term where he cemented himself as the Wallabies backline general after being handed the opportunity at flyhalf.
Beale took over as Australia’s first choice number 10 for the Qantas Wallabies’ final three Tests of the domestic programme, losing nothing in comparison with the All Black maestro Daniel Carter in the final Bledisloe Test of the year. His authority as backline General grew further on the Spring Tour, most notably at Twickenham when his tactical mastery, on the back of a dominant forward performance, saw England shut out and held point-less in the second half as Australia regained the Cook Cup.
Although he was a nominee for the IRB Player of the Year from fullback in 2010, while gaining further recognition a year later when he was voted as the John Eales Medal winner by his peers; flyhalf always appealed as a potential long term ‘home’ for Beale. Quade Cooper’s and James O’Connor’s injury troubles opened the door – and Beale bolted through it. The 24-year-old’s performance once he finally ascended to flyhalf reflected his growing maturity as a leader as well as a playmaker.
His talent was certainly never in doubt, with his feat in becoming just the third back to win the John Eales Medal, realising the great expectations that were set by his Wallaby debut in Cardiff at the end of the Spring Tour of 2009.
Selection completed a journey that had seen the teen protégée touted as a future international ever since he completed three straight years as an Australian Schoolboys representative between 2004 and 2006, while schooling at St Josephs College (more readily known as ‘Joeys’) in Sydney. His schoolboy career saw Beale lead ‘Joeys’ to a hat-trick of GPS titles before he was rushed into the Waratahs as an 18-year-old in 2007, operating largely from flyhalf until he was switched to fullback by Robbie Deans in 2010.
Although predominantly a fullback towards the end of his career with NSW, injuries saw Beale revive his junior glory days as a flyhalf with stunning effect last year at his new club, the Melbourne Rebels, repeatedly starring for the Victorians from the playmaking role. Those performances led him to the same role for the Qantas Wallabies, but only after he had mastered a series of injuries which compromised his conditioning during the first part of the Test season. This led to a difficult experience mid-year against the All Blacks, from which he showed the resilience and mental strength to bounce back.
Ironically, given his reputation as a creative playmaker, Beale was first sighted in the Test arena as a wing when he made his debut off the bench against Wales, being injected into that game in the unfamiliar position after he had scored two tries during the midweek win over the Cardiff Blues five days earlier.
He was at fullback for his first run on Test start in 2010 and made the most of it; scoring two tries during Australia’s season-opening 49-3 win over Fiji. It is a position he has become known for with 27 of Beale’s 36 Test appearances to the start of 2013 have been made from fullback, which has left him just one match shy of breaking into the top five for appearances among Australian Test fullbacks.
Beale established himself at the back through 2010, performing with such aplomb that he ended his first full international season with the IRB nomination. He missed just two of the record 15 Tests played by Australia through the year, and finished as the Wallabies’ second most prolific try-scorer with seven. Two of those came during the Cook Cup defeat against England at Twickenham. While his brilliance that day could not stave off defeat, the first of his tries was the 100th scored by Australia against England in Tests.
Beale continued to dazzle in 2011, appearing in the first eight Tests of the season. He scored the title-sealing try as Australia beat New Zealand 25-20 at Brisbane to claim the Tri Nations for the first time in a decade.
After a quiet start to his maiden Rugby World Cup, Beale hit trouble in the match against the United States when he was forced to retire with a hamstring strain, shortly after scoring a try. The injury dogged the rest of his tournament, forcing him from the field again in the quarter-final and Bronze Medal playoffs, while ruling him out of the semi-final altogether. As his presence had provided Australia with a second on-field playmaker, allowing the Wallabies to shift the point of attack away from flyhalf if required; his absence against the All Blacks was keenly felt.
Fortunately Beale is young enough that he should get one, if not two, more shots at the World Cup; especially if he can maintain the type of work ethic that rekindled his career after it threatened to derail. Beale worked tirelessly, shedding six kilograms of playing weight, from the 2009 season, in order to reap the benefits a year later. He also worked enthusiastically on his goal-kicking, with that diligence showing through when he nervelessly slotted the 55 metre penalty goal in the last act of the game to hand Australia the epic victory over South Africa at Bloemfontein. A further long-range penalty during the draw against the All Blacks in Brisbane last term served as another reminder of his capabilities as a goal-kicker, which surfaced again when he took over from Berrick Barnes to kick the goals that helped convert pressure into points during the wins over Italy and Wales on the Spring Tour.
A flag bearer for Indigenous Rugby in Australia, Beale – who was raised at Mt Druitt in the western reaches of Sydney – is generous with his time supporting Indigenous education and development programmes.
Beale was one of four players of Aboriginal descent to feature in the Australian team that played New Zealand at Christchurch in 2010, which was a record. The others were the twins, Anthony and Saia Faingaa, and loose forward Matt Hodgson. Adding to this significance, then assistant coach Jim Williams a former Indigenous Wallaby was part of the match night coaching staff.