Representative Honours: Australian Sevens 2007-08, Australian Wallabies 2010-
Senior Tours: Hong Kong & Europe 2010, RWC (New Zealand) 2011, England & Wales 2011, Europe 2012
Melbourne Rebels captain SCOTT HIGGINBOTHAM is set to put the disappointment of an injury-hit 2013 campaign behind him as he looks to capitalise on his current career-best form for the Qantas Wallabies this year.
Following a breakthrough 2012 season that saw him add a further 12 Test caps to his resume, Higginbotham was poised to play a significant role in last year’s Test series against The British & Irish Lions before a shoulder injury put a premature end to his season.
A crunching tackle on former Queensland Reds teammate Beau Robinson was the cause of the ultimately dislocation although it did give Higginbotham a chance to experience an entire offseason heading into his second season leading the Melbourne Rebels as captain.
His creative and powerful running game has again catapulted him back in Australian Test selection, where he will be determined to add to the 23 caps he earned since his debut against France in 2010.
Before joining the Rebels for the 2012 season, the skillful back-rower was a mainstay in his final campaign for the Queensland Reds in Super Rugby, stepping into a leadership role as the 2011 champions endured a bumpy ride at times during the competition. This was followed by a sometimes challenging but more than useful Test contribution where he featured in 12 of the Qantas Wallabies’ 15 Tests of the year, with the highs more than out-numbering the lows through that time.
The now 26-year-old was one of just five players to start in all four of the mid-year Tests, scoring his maiden Test try, fittingly at Suncorp Stadium against Wales. He went on to claim a second try off the bench as the Wallabies completed a record fifth consecutive win over South Africa while retaining the Nelson Mandela Challenge Plate in Perth. Then, following a ‘bump’ which was provided by becoming the latest Wallaby to act mindlessly in frustration at the breakdown ‘activities’ of All Black skipper Richie McCaw, Higginbotham found himself sidelined through suspension.
Higginbotham returned from the suspension as a replacement to start in the final two Tests on the Spring Tour. Of the three Tests he missed last year, two were as a result of his suspension, while he was named for the third – against South Africa at Pretoria – but had to pull out after failing a pre-game fitness Test; as he had when named to make his Test debut at the same venue three years earlier!
One of the reasons for the consistency of his selection was because Higginbotham tightened up his game considerably, adjusting to the more physical requirements of Test play, having first sprung onto the representative scene as a rangy but slightly erratic loose forward for Queensland in 2008. His athleticism was never in doubt, being reinforced by a try he scored for the Reds against the Bulls at Suncorp Stadium three years back, where he out-paced the fleet-footed Springbok winger Bryan Habana on an astonishing 60m sprint to the ball following a Queensland kick through.
That, and other feats, saw Higginbotham elevated to the Qantas Wallabies for the first time later that season, although his eventual Test debut proved to be a complicated process. Higginbotham ‘finally’ became Wallaby #848 in the 2010 season-ending Test against France in Paris, where Australia crushed the reigning Six Nations champions 59-16 in Paris, but he had been poised to be introduced much earlier – only to be forced to withdraw from the mid-year Tri Nations Test against South Africa after he injured his back in the warm up.
Higginbotham finally got to play on South African soil two years ago, while starting in a Test match for the first time, as Australia beat the Springboks 14-9 at Durban during its run to a first Tri Nations title for a decade in 2011. That appearance was one of 10 Higginbotham achieved in Tests that year as he moved closer to becoming a regular in the Qantas Wallabies match night squad, offering versatility as both a No.8 and blindside flanker. He also started for the Wallabies during the 60-11 thumping of the Barbarians on the brief Spring Tour.
Although born in Perth, Higginbotham rose to prominence in Queensland, joining the QRU Academy programme in 2007. He made his Super Rugby debut a year later, and by 2009 was a regular fixture for the Reds – which was no mean feat given that Queensland employed 36 players during an injury-riddled 2009 season. Higginbotham was one of just four, alongside Quade Cooper, Sean Hardman and Laurie Weeks, to play all 13 games for the Reds that year.