Higginbotham happy, healthy and hungry for more

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

Behind every great player is a similarly great story but Scott Higginbotham is far from your archetypal great rugby player - he is one of rugby's most intriguing figures.

Surfing, riding motorbikes and working on old cars are just a handful of his hobbies and he preaches the importance of giving the brain a break from the game.

He owns cafes, sports some unique tattoos and to the outside observer, appears to be the kind of player that leads by example, rather than by his words.

But speak to the man and those close to him and you will find a laser-like focus that knows what he and his team needs and the best way to get there.

The opportunities to live abroad while doing something you know and love has always appealed to the 30-year-old but when he speaks about the Queensland Reds, there is a clear love for the No.8 jersey he pulls on every weekend.

“I came back to Queensland wanting to play for Queensland,” he said.Higginbotham is happy to be back at Ballymore. Photo: QRU Media/Brendan Hertel“Being in Japan and signing in Australia again, I was well aware that the opportunity (to play for the Wallabies) might not come

“So I am fine with that - I signed for Queensland and came back to play for Queensland.

“They (the coaches) seem happy with the way I’m going and that’s what matters most to me - doing my best for the club that wants me here.”

Higginbotham's return to Ballymore was soured when reports emerged he had been charged with assault police and entering a police establishment without a lawful excuse.

But the assault police charge has since been dropped and Higginbotham has come back as the kind of player that the Reds so desperately needed in the four years they played without him.

There is no back rower in Super Rugby - perhaps even world rugby - that is able to use his running game to find space, squeeze through it and create opportunities for others.

His ability to fight through contact and slip offloads out the back of his hand has shades of Sonny Bill Williams about it.Higginbotham has been in superb form for Queensland. Photo: Getty ImagesThat is not said lightly.

Watch the players put in second efforts to run support lines either side of him.

In every game that he plays, there is a sense of inevitability that he will create an opportunity for at least one try.

Higginbotham is a game breaker in the very sense of the phrase and it’s no coincidence that he has scored more tries than any forward in Super Rugby history.

“It’s easy to play reasonably well when you have coaches that trust things in you and they got me here for the game that I play,” he said.

“They want to see that so it’s easy to go out there and play your game when the coaches - that’s what they want to see as well.

“They mould a bit of a game plan to your strengths, which obviously makes it a lot easier.”

His first stint at the Reds were without question, the years which shaped the man that we know him today.Higginbotham enjoyed taking the reigns of the Rebels. Photo: Getty ImagesBut Higginbotham is the type that gets itchy feet.

The type that wants to see the world and experience the sights and sounds that is has to offer.

While his first love is Queensland, he reflects on his years abroad with a smile.

“If you count the five years I played for the Reds initially and also the three years in the academy prior to that, I had been coming in and out of Ballymore since 2005,” he said.

“I left after 2012 and I knew there was more out there.

“I had always said to my manager that Melbourne would be the only place that I would go to - in terms of it being a city where I would like to live.

“I love Queensland but Melbourne were a new team, I hadn’t played them much so I didn’t have too much angst towards them.

“The opportunity came up and it worked out for the best with the guys that were here at the Reds at the time.”Higginbotham was a big part of Queensland's last golden era. Photo: Getty ImagesThose guys were Will Genia, Quade Cooper and James Horwill, who Higginbotham had grown up alongside en route to the 2011 Super Rugby title.

“I was constantly just sort of following suit and I wanted the opportunity to grow as a player in terms of leadership and when you’ve had that success at one team, you feel like there is opportunity to have success at another team,” he said.

Those trips abroad are behind him now and there is only one thing on Higginbotham's mind as the Reds make their run at an Australian Conference title.

He makes it as clear as the night is black - the time for talking is over.

“I think there is definitely foundations but I feel like most teams would tell you that there is foundations there for being a premiership team - I think any team can say that.

“I think as a group you’ve got to focus on the now and not talk about next year being our year or we’ll get them next game.

“It’s got to be right now.

“Whether you’re ready or not or whether everything is clicking, you can’t really let that come into it too much because not everything is going to be clicking at the one time.

“There were definitely times where things didn’t click in 2011 but we got through that.

“I definitely see the foundations of a finals team but you actually have to make it happen - you can’t just keep saying that.”

The Reds host the Force tomorrow night at Suncorp Stadium, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS and on radio at RUGBY.com.au.