McMahon making the most of an all-or-nothing approach

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Sean McMahon isn’t Stephen Moore.

The 23-year-old doesn’t believe he’ll be reading a flood of tributes after a mammoth Test career in more than a decade’s time. 

He has staked a reputation on an all-or-nothing attitude, that has given him plenty of accolades at just 23, but even he knows it’s an approach with a limited lifespan, not catered for the Test centurion.

Already the backrower has battled with injuries, this season missing the majority of Super Rugby with back-to-back ankle, knee and wrist injuries, with the first two particularly hindering.

It’s a turn of events that probably informs why the 25-Test backrower won’t be in Australia next year, embarking on a two-year deal in Japan, understandably trying to make the most of a chance in a short-term career.

“I don't think my body's going to last that long, with the way I tend to play,” he said.

“I think this year was a bit of an eye opener for me after the last four or five  years caught up with me all in one year.

“My ankle went, my knee went, coming back from that and the unfortunate wrist, which was a real kick in the back.

“You look at those and you think it did catch up (with me).

“I think now it's going to come down to me looking after my body a lot better than what I probably was and recovery's going to start becoming a bigger thing for me.

“I think the way I'm playing, lasting till I'm over 30's probably not on the cards I don't think.”

His mindset in rugby has a short rugby lifespan, though McMahon would be nowhere near as successful without it, but as he enters a new stage of his personal life, becoming a dad in April and recently married, his view shifted towards the long-term, away from the rugby field.

“My family's given me a lot and sacrificed a lot for me to do what I've been able to do,” he said.

"Now, I've got my own family coming up I want to be able to do what my family did for me and that's make sure I support them and be able to support them right through.

“So, this opportunity I've been given was a hard one to pass up and I know it'll be able to set me and my family up for a long time to come.”

McMahon has proved this year, albeit in the absence of David Pocock, that he deserves a place in the Wallabies fold, even with the revolving conveyer belt of flankers coming through.

“I think the only way to get yourself into the starting side now is to force yourself in and prove to Cheik and the coaches that you have something that one of the other players doesn't and that you really want it, that you really want to be in the starting side,” he said.

“You've got to show that mentally and physically out on the training paddock and when you get your opportunities to play, even that is coming off the bench at times.”

He will leave a void, even with the Australian depth, an approach that is unrivalled in many of even the best players in the squad, flyhalf Bernard Foley says.

“He's emerged as one of our most consistent players this season, through just his desire and workrate,” Foley said.

“I think that's something he's really passed on to some young guys - you don't have to be the biggest guy, you don't have to be the most intimidating of physiques but you can just go out there and get it done.

“If you really want it to happen for you or you're really set in your way, then anything can happen and I think he's going to be an absolutely massive loss for us because of what he's done for this team and how he's gone out there and been such a consistent performer.

“I think a lot of his carries this year have put us on, has built such a platform for us as playmakers or in the backline, just on the way he's gone about his business and I suppose how fearless he is too, he doesn't hesitate to run through brick walls or do the hard work, he loves that.”

McMahon’s two-year Japan deal isn’t quite as airtight when it comes to missing the 2019 Rugby World Cup as it initially seemed and Foley, for one, is adamant his Wallabies days are far from done.

“I think he's been such an asset for our side and he's only very young,” he said.

“He definitely hasn't played his last game in the Wallaby jersey, he's still got so much to give and so much to give back to it, so hopefully he stays around.”

McMahon plays one final Test, for now, against Scotland on Saturday, as the Wallabies look to send veteran Moore out on a permanent high note.

Australia takes on Scotland on Saturday November 25, kicking off at 2:30pm local, Sunday 1:30am AEDT, LIVE on beIN Sports and SBS Viceland.