Finegan: Rugby shapes us all

by Owen Finegan

It is always a proud moment when you are selected for your first Test and join the family that is the Wallabies. As a Classic Wallaby, I’m now part of a group of men that have similar values and beliefs.

Wallabies past and present try to leave a lasting impact or legacy on the game. Striving to be role models while challenging themselves to improve, achieving their best and understanding the very lucky position we are given.

One of the great Wallabies was Stan Bisset, an extraordinary man. A Rugby legend, distinguished solider, a man who displayed so many wonderful characteristics that it makes you proud to be in the same Rugby family.

In rugby we talk a lot about not making only better players but better people. Bisset is described as personifying moral and physical courage, compassion, selflessness, independence, loyalty, resourcefulness, independence, devotion and humour.

There is no stronger attributes you could aspire to. As one of my Wallaby captains, John Eales, described in the book "Stan Bisset Kokoda Wallaby”, the Wallabies are fortunate to have role models of the highest order and Stan is at the top of the game.

In the next couple of weeks our Super Rugby players have the opportunity to further strengthen their claims for a position in Michael Cheika’s Wallaby team to play England.

Many will pull the jersey on again for another season and for some it may be their first time joining the Wallaby family.

Last year I was lucky to be invited into the Wallabies team environment to watch their training, share a meal with the team and present their Test jerseys before their successful game against the All Blacks in Sydney.

Finegan the lucky charm? The result after his jersey presentation in Sydney. Photo: ARU Media Stuart WarmsleyI had been given a small taste of their self belief and I saw the positive environment that Cheika had nurtured after instilling his own values upon the group. I left confident not only for that Test match but the lead up to the 2015 World Cup last year, and now for a brighter future, particularly after Cheika re-signed until after the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

In former Wallaby Peter FitzSimons's book on Kokoda, former Prime Minister Paul Keating is quoted as saying that ,"troops died in defence of Australia and the civilisation and values that had grown up there. That is why it might be said that, for Australians, the battles in Papua New Guinea were the most important ever fought".

This Friday, I will join what has almost become a pilgrimage, in walking the Kokoda trek. I look forward to the challenge of Kokoda while remembering our troops who sacrificed their lives for what they believed in. I will also think of children fighting cancer and their families with the adversity and challenges that they face on a daily basis.

Rugby and family are the two things that have shaped my life more than anything else and made me who I am and what I believe in. Not that I would ever wish for another war but it is always satisfying to fight for what you believe in. I learned that from Stan Bisset.

Late Wallabies Andy Barr and Stan Bisset. Photo: ARU Media

Donate to Finegan's Kokoda trek for the The Kids' Cancer Project Australia here.

A former Captain of the ACT Brumbies, Owen Finegan played 90 matches for the Brumbies and 56 Tests for the Wallabies. He is currently the CEO of The Kids' Cancer Project Australia.

The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the ARU.