Brumbies' Cusack still has hopes of second Olympic berth

Super Rugby - AU
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Brumbies flanker Tom Cusack hasn't given up hope of a second Olympic berth despite the tournament being pushed back a year.

Cusack is signed on a dual Sevens XVs deal that would allow him to potentially compete at the Tokyo 2020 games.

The backrower played in last Oceania qualification tournament, which the men won, and that short stint only strengthened his desire to push for an Olympics spot.

Had 2020 unfolded as planned, that would have meant a full Super Rugby season for Cusack and then the final legs of the World Series in Paris and London at most to use in his push for a Tokyo spot.

This year has had different plans for everyone, though, and in April the Olympics were postponed to July 2021, and the remainder of the World Series for the 2019-20 and the start of the 2020-21 series is yet to be scheduled.

Speaking to media on Friday, Cusack said he still harboured ambitions of being a part of the Tokyo campaign.

"It's bittersweet in a way, I can solely focus on XVs now," he said.

"There was a time there where I would have had to, coming at the back end of the XVs season, I would've had to change my focus to Sevens and try and integrate back in because I was only supposed to be back there for a month or two leading into the Olympics.

"I would've had to have been a quick turnaround but to solely have to focus on the XVs is a nice little way forward but hopefully Olympics will take off next year and hopefully I can be a part of it.

"I've still got my hat in the ring and still looking forward to working with the team."

There is little clarity on exactly what the Sevens program will look like in the wake of widespread cost-cutting across Rugby Australia.

Any confirmation about the 2021 structure is unlikely to come until after a broadcast deal is signed for 2021, something that would give the whole of the Australian game a better picture of what's to come.

The prospect of decentralising the program has been mentioned through the year, something that would see players brought together for pre-event camps rather than training full-time together, but Cusack said he was unsure what the future held for the Sevens side.

"There's a lot of speculation about it based off new models and new models based through all teams around Australia," he said.

"It's kind of an uncertain position...it's based off these negotiations which are currently going and how we best go forward, as to how the game will move forward and I'm guessing that will take its own course over the next couple of months."

In the meantime, a host of Cusack's Sevens squad mates will be popping up in the Super Rugby AU competition.

Lewis Holland and Lachie Anderson join new Rebels recruit Jeral Skelton in Melbourne while Nick Malouf and Angus Bell are in the Waratahs group for the competition.

Cusack said he expected those players to make an impact at their teams and he certainly wouldn't be underestimating them.

"When I made the switch with Cam Clark and a few others like that and Seanny McMahon it's kind of, they're not seen as able to do the transition across and vice versa going back as well," he said.

"Seeing the calibre of players that are actually going to a XVs team, like Nick Malouf played over at Leicester ,Lewi Holland's a phenomenal player who I played a lot against growing up through school, Jeral Skelton played for Randwick against Argentina," he said.

"They're all phenomenal talents and it's going to be interesting to see where they actually place them in the team."

Cusack won't be surprised if he finds himself up against playmaker Holland as early as next week, with the Brumbies to face the Rebels in round one.

"He's got the skill, he's got the kicking game, he's definitely got the passing game and growing up through school and even watching through the Sevens, his attacking game is second to none and it's going to be exciting to see what he can do," he said.

"I'll be interested to see where he slots into the fold down there with Matty To'omua and Billy Meakes and Andrew Deegan and a few of those.

"He's got a lot of competition but he's one of those, like a bull to a rag, he'll want to compete and he'll want to get that starting spot pretty quickly.

The Rebels arrived in Canberra on Friday after being relocated in the wake of a coronavirus case spike in Victoria this week.

The Brumbies take on the Rebels on Saturday July 4 at GIO Stadium, kicking off at 7:15pm AEST, LIVE on Foxtel, Foxtel Now and Kayo Sports. Buy a Kayo subscription here.