Houston answers Wallabies call

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

One phone call changed it all for Leroy Houston.

The former Queensland Reds player wasn’t even considering a return to Australia mere months ago, happily ensconced in his new hometown, Bath.

A cult figure among fans, Houston had a year to run on his contract with his adopted side and no plans to go anywhere else.

Then Michael Cheika picked up the phone.

“He rang me and left a message and I was shocked and I rung him straight away,” he said.

“The phone was stumbling out of my hands, [rang] him straight away.

“I love Bath, I love the club  and the fans. I had another season with them but they were kind enough to release me from that contract to chase my dream. 

“If Cheika hadn’t contacted me I would have been very happy to stay at Bath.”

It’s easy to see why Houston garnered such a following in England, with a vibrant energy, ecstatic over a chance to finally push for a Wallabies debut, 11 years after his first Test camp.

Cheika asked for a meeting and even then Houston thought he was just putting out feelers for a Super Rugby return, with a Test future far down the track.

“When he waved the carrot in front of my face and said, ‘You’ll be a part of the Wallabies squad I just dropped everything,” he said.

“The next mission was to try and get a deal with the Reds.”

Queensland was the only place he wanted to head to, after being a part of the 2011 squad but not actually playing in the championship game.

Left with a sense of “unfinished business”, he sought out the Reds and ultimately secured a new Super Rugby deal.

“I think I’m four or five games off being 50 caps for the Reds,” he said.

“I’ve always wanted to get that 50 capper for the Reds so hopefully I’ll get the chance this season. 

“I wasn’t even playing (in 2011) that’s why I mean a bit of unfinished business. 

“I’m hoping in a couple of seasons time we can make it back to the (top) spot again and hopefully I can be amongst it this time.”

With that sorted, Houston’s biggest immediate challenge is breaking into an intimidating backrow.

“I watched the world cup and 100 per cent when Cheik gave me the call I was like, “How am I going to fit in here?”

“He just said, ‘I’ll give you the chance, it’s up to you’.

“He’s just given me the chance to try and prove myself and try and get into this backrow with all start players, world class players. 

“The thing about rugby competition in training, it brings the best out of you.

“Competing against world class players like this is just going to bring the best out of you.”