Representative Honours: Australia A Schools 2005, Australian Under-19s 2007, Australian Sevens 2010, Australian Wallabies 2010-
Senior Tours: Hong Kong & Europe 2010, RWC (New Zealand) 2011, Europe 2012
Arguably one of the toughest backs in commission in international Rugby, PAT McCABE overcame a season-ending neck injury in 2013 to be one of the best performing backs during this year’s Asteron Life Super Rugby tournament.
The underrated 26-year-old only added just one Test cap to his resume last year – in the opening clash against The British & Irish Lions – before a neck injury in the second half put an end to the remainder of his international season.
It was unfortunately his second neck injury in as many years, although the talented ACT Brumbies centre has continued to defy the odds and is now playing some of the best Rugby of his career as he pushes his way back in the Test selection picture.
Such has been the growth of his influence - both at the Brumbies and with the national team - McCabe was in 2012 included in the five-man leadership group at the Qantas Wallabies, despite it being only his second full season with the team.
However, he suffered a premature end to the year due to a cervical fracture in his neck, sustained during the opening Test of the Spring Tour against France in Paris.
A year earlier, his courage was on show for all to see at the 2011 Rugby World Cup where he battled a rapidly weakening shoulder to see Australia through to the back end of the tournament. Despite damaging his shoulder in the pool match win over the United States, McCabe returned just two weeks later as one of the key figures of Australia’s epic 11-9 shut-out of the defending champions South Africa in the tournament quarter-final.
Incredibly, he then topped the team tackle count again a week later against New Zealand in the semi-final, despite being on the field for just the opening 47 minutes of the game, before his shoulder finally gave way and off-season surgery was required. Thus ended the defining year of his career, which saw McCabe progress from one Test rookie to automatic selection, playing a key part in Australia’s first Tri Nations success for a decade, where his deeds included scoring the decisive try of the Wallabies’ 14-9 win over South Africa at Durban, which set up the tournament win.
McCabe became the 847th Wallaby when he made his debut at Florence on the 2010 Spring Tour. He then became the inadvertent centre of attention when his elevation to a starting role at the beginning of 2011 usurped the higher profile Matt Giteau, who left to play in France.
It took just one Tri Nations to show that the investment in McCabe was worth it: in the space of two weeks at Durban and then Brisbane, the young Warringah midfielder and his rookie centre partner, Anthony Fainga’a, went head-to-head and compared favourably with the most experienced Test midfield combinations ever fielded by either South Africa or New Zealand.
Prior to his ascension to the Wallabies, McCabe was selected by national Sevens coach Michael O’Connor in 2010 although injury denied him the opportunity to attend that year’s Commonwealth Games Sevens tournament in New Delhi, India. The Sevens recognition continued a development that started eight years ago when McCabe made the Australia A Schools team playing out of Sydney’s St Aloysius’ College. That recognition saw him picked up by the NSW Academy, taking part in their development tour of Europe in 2006, where he made his debut against Northampton.
The following year, McCabe featured for the title-winning Central Coast Rays in the only season of the Australian Rugby Championship. He was also selected for the Australian Under-19s, appearing four times – alternating between flyhalf and fullback - during the final IRB Under-19 World Cup which was held in Northern Ireland. Australia finished third at that tournament.
McCabe helped the Warringah Rats to the semi-finals of the 2008 (NSW) Shute Shield competition, before signing for the Brumbies in 2009. After performing well during the Brumby Runners programme, which included scoring tries against each of the Junior Waratahs and the Australian Barbarians, McCabe was included on the Brumbies Development tour of France in 2009, making his full Brumbies debut against French club Bourgoin. The newcomer went on to appear four times during the trip, being voted as the Player of the Tour by his team-mates.
He started off 2010 by making his Super Rugby debut for the Brumbies, and wound up one of just seven within the side to play all 13 matches, and one of just two backs to do so, alongside Adam Ashley-Cooper.
By the end of his freshman Super Rugby year, further recognition had been attained by his selection as a Wallaby. Well rounded off the field, McCabe regularly hits the books in his spare time and actually sat an exam mid-week before last year’s third match against Wales in Sydney. As with the weekend’s match, McCabe passed the Test!
McCabe’s progression was recognised by his peers at the end of 2010 when he beat off some hot competition – which included that year’s 13-Test rookie James Slipper - to be named as the Australian Rugby Players Association’s Rookie of the Year.