Kurtley Beale’s progression in the last year has in many ways epitomised the transformation of the Wallabies’ team and his teammates say he can only get better after a sensational Rugby World Cup.
The utility was at a crossroads a year ago, unsure where his rugby future was or indeed if he had one at all, particularly at Test level.
A solid year at the Waratahs under Michael Cheika earned him a Wallabies World Cup spot and Beale came off the bench in all but two of Australia’s matches, filling a number of roles across the ground.
In the final, the 26-year-old replaced Matt Giteau (concussion) and played on the wing, with Adam Ashley-Cooper shifting to the centres for much of the game.
He directed a lot of the team’s attack and was a key spark in the Wallabies’ second-half fight back
The man who has kept Beale out of a starting spot for much of the tournament and one of his close friends, Israel Folau, said he was immensely proud to see Beale’s game.
“I’m just so proud of the way he played throughout the whole tournament and tonight the way he came off the bench and brought that energy is a credit to him,: he said.
“That’s the type of player he is and I’m just proud to be playing alongside him.”
Waratahs teammate Nick Phipps said Beale’s turnaround was incredible after he had been effectively written off by external critics this time a year ago.
“I think three main things for us as a group has been making the right decisions, fulfilling our potential and never letting anyone down,” he said.
“That’s shown in the way the characters have developed.
“There’s players that have probably been written off before off field more than anything and you can just see them here.
“We’ve got KB performing like that and the group that’s around him, he’s a world class player. “
Beale’s versatility has seen him play a variety of roles in the back line due to injuries and Wallabies coach Michael Cheika applauded Beale’s attitude after the final.
“He’s been outstanding on this trip,” he said.
“He’s probably been one of our best and he’s had to mix up between starting and on the bench and that’s hard for him to take,” he said.
“He wants to be the best, for him to sit and be a finisher is very difficult but his attitude towards those things and then coming on and making a contribution to the team, which he did again tonight.
“I like him a lot as a player. I’ve had a lot to do with him over the last few years and I think he’s only going to get better.”
Hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau said Beale’s confidence in directing things on the field was a sign of a growing maturity.
“I think he’s really matured in terms of how he’s sort of learned from his past but also..., it’s just amazing how he can just, on the field, direct us in certain situations like he did tonight,” he said.
“And I mean he’s only got bigger things to come in front of him.
“Kurtley Beale - unbelievable athlete and it’s like a ‘watch this space’ because he’ll be a key for 2019.”