Hanigan's Wallabies dreams become reality

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

When Ned Hanigan was a youngster in country NSW town Coonamble, his family and their neighbours used to gather to watch Wallabies Tests.

Hanigan would try his hand at the Haka, and watch some of rugby’s most exciting players battle it out.

“I remember going over to a next door neighbour's house and there was five or six families - it was when Carlos Spencer and Bernie (Stephen Larkham) was playing and those fellas,” he said.

“I used to imitate the Haka at the start of the game and stuff like that.

“It was a family get together I guess and you just see that gold jersey running around the field and you automatically, it's a dream.”

Ned Hanigan has impressed in Wallabies camp. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyThen, he aspired to be a back, with the ‘flashy’ shoes, not moving into the forwards until his late teens, a switch that has clearly paid dividends, as he progressed through the ranks.

Probably to be honest (I wanted to play in the backs), I liked all the flashy shoes and stuff,” he laughed.

“I didn't go into the forwards until I was about 16 - had a bit of a stint at outside centre, which I don't think I'd be anywhere here (if I stayed there).

“I did think I was a flashy back.”

The 23-year-old has gone from fringe Waratahs player to Wallabies debutant in the space of just over a year, a journey he still can’t quite fathom.

Hanigan’s parents, one of his brothers and his sister will all be at the game, though he was yet to actually speak to them about the announcement when discussing the whirlwind on Thursday afternoon.

His country drawl belies his laidback attitude, and while it’s been some time since he’s visited his hometown, he reckons the local establishment might have a few interested visitors on the weekend.

“I haven't been to a pub in Coonamble for a while,” he said.

“The Bucking Bull might have a few locals in it.”

Hanigan’s workrate has impressed Michael Cheika and with Sean McMahon injured and David Pocock on sabbatical, Cheika has been able to look more towards the blindside flanker prototype that is a lineout asset, one he has moved away from somewhat in the past year.

“I just really like his attitude. He's not scared to get stuck in,” he said.

“He'll work hard for you - he's got a lot of improvement to go and I suppose he never expected to get this opportunity now.

“What I've liked is we've got a few young backrowers like Ned, Jack Dempsey who's in this camp, Adam Korczyk hasn't had as much game time but he's just a close runner as well, who we're going to be looking at to really claim that sort of role, to give us the opportunity to play that complementary back row.

Ned Hanigan's workrate has caught Michael Cheika's eye. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley“Where in the past we have have had  Dave Pocock and Michael, who we've decided to go with different combinations and with Sean out, those guys missing.

“Let's turn that negative into a positive and give someone an opportunity who brings a different profile to the game from our point of view at six.”

Though he’s still caught up in the whirlwind, Hanigan knows it’s all business on Saturday once he finally has the chance to live his dream.

“I do get a bit nervous. I think if you said you weren't nervous before a thing like this you'd be kidding yourself,” he said.

“The nerves are good, though, as long as you don't lose what you've got to do on the field.

“As soon as the whistle goes, the first bit of contact and a Fijian elbow in the face might knock it all out."

The Wallabies take on Fiji on Saturday afternoon at AAMI Park, kicking off at 3pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS. Buy tickets here.