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Tough year ends on a high for re-signed Dempsey

Sat, 10/11/2018, 6:00 am
Beth Newman
by Beth Newman
The Wallabies will look to build on their 13-match winning streak against Wales when they clash at Principality Stadium in Cardiff. Meanwhile, the All Blacks will face a stern test when they meet England and Eddie Jones in London.

Jack Dempsey has inked a new two-year deal, giving him some much-needed positive news after a tough 2018 slog.

Dempsey spent most of the season in rehab after a gruesome hamstring injury suffered against the Barbarians last year but things have been looking up for him since his comeback from injury.

Strong NRC form pushed him back into Wallabies contention and after a barnstorming cameo in the third Bledisloe, he was handed a start against Wales. 

His attitude has impressed many around him, with coach Michael Cheika praising his fighting spirit, and it's that tenacity that has pushed him up the Test pecking order.

It was an easy decision for Dempsey to stay put with the World Cup less than a year away and Sydney still well and truly his home.

“We went a long time there without some good news and then all of a sudden, you get a couple of months where you get back-to-back good news, so I think it definitely keeps you positive after a tough year,” he said.

“Just looking to continue that and put the bad stuff behind me now.”

He didn’t have much time to think about that Wallabies comeback in Japan but that made things all the easier for Dempsey.

“Cheik told me on the Thursday, he was like, "I want you to play off the bench," and so I didn't have a week or a couple of weeks to think about it, it was just straight in there and to be honest, that's probably helped me a bit more just doing that,” he said.

This is Dempsey’s second Spring Tour but the first one on which he will actually play a Test, after joining the squad as a development player in 2016 alongside Taniela Tupou, Izaia Perese and Andrew Kellaway.

The only match he played back then was a mid-week tour games against the French Barbarians in Bordeaux.

Two years on, he’s well on the way to being an established Wallaby and watching as two new faces in Rob Valetini and Isi Naisarani occupy those development spots.

Dempsey said being a fully-fledged member of the team made him more desperate to ensure he performed well at every opportunity.

“At the time (in 2016), there were guys like Dean Mumm and Scott Fardy who were the two sixes in that squad and I knew very much at that period there was going to be a changing of the  guard in that position,” he said.

“For me, going on that tour, was all about learning and everything I could get from not only those guys but also your Pococks and your Hoopers who are in that back row as well, so that when my time did come as it has in the last couple of years I could do my best to repay the jersey and guys like that who leave that legacy behind.

“Now we've even got some more younger guys. We've got Valetini and Naisarani, who are looking to add another different flavour to this backrow.

“It's really exciting but now I'm no longer development and I can play, I feel I've got a bit more control over my identity in the team and it's about making sure you don't let the boys down and go hard in there.”

Though he will be in the thick of the action, Dempsey wants to use this tour for as much learning as he did back in 2016, just this time he wants to bank first-hand knowledge of Northern Hemisphere opponents.

“Personally, if I could walk away knowing that my style of game is just as effective against this type of opposition as it is against the ones I'm used to, I guess that's a positive,” he said.

“But also from a tactical point of view, when you're looking week-to-week and you're studying.

"We’ve got the England game coming in a few weeks, so like Maro Itoje for example.

“He's the kind of guy you don't see in Southern Hemisphere rugby, this massive guy who's so dominant in the set piece as well.

“It’s just making sure that all these kinds of guys, you've just got to put in your back pocket.

“You have the experience to be able to go out there in a Test match and show what you have against a guy like that who's so established and world-class.”

Australia takes on Wales in Cardiff on Saturday November 10, kicking off at 5:20pm local, Sunday 4:20am AEDT, LIVE on beIn Sport Channel 513 and SBS.

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