"I'm just so grateful": Genia named for club rugby cameo

Hospital Cup
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Will Genia will make a club rugby cameo this weekend and the former Wallabies scrumhalf says he is just grateful to have the chance to pull on the boots.

Genia has been named on the bench for GPS against Souths in the Hospital Challenge Cup this weekend, broadcast LIVE on Rugby Xplorer.

The 32-year-old, who currently plays for Japanese side Kintetsu, has been back in Brisbane since the Top League season was shut down back in March and hasn't had a competitive game of rugby since then.

He has been training with a host of other Brisbane-based Kintetsu players including Quade Cooper and Lolo Fakaosilea but Genia grew tired of pure conditioning work.

Genia's brother Nigel still plays for GPS and it's the club where the Test centurion first played club rugby after finishing school, so he asked if he could go down and train with them.


The Gallopers agreed and from there, Genia said, things grew organically.

"A bunch of us from Kintetsu had been doing running on the break with COVID and my brother plays at GPS so I thought I'd see if I can go down and do some footy training, just got sick of running," he said.

"I've been training for four or five weeks there and when their season kicked off, I asked if I could actually play."

He had initially hoped to run out with his brother in reserve grade last weekend but his required clearance from Kintetsu didn't come through until this week.

Genia said there were some "strings attached" to the clearance but the Liners have given the go ahead for him to come off the bench against Souths at Yoku Road.

This week, Nigel is starting for premier grade and Will is coming off the bench in their first game playing in the same 23, something the younger Genia hasn't let his older brother forget.

"He's carrying on on about it in the chat group, about me sitting on the bench for him," he laughed.

While it might seem that spending time in club rugby is a way that Genia is giving back to the rugby community, he views it as yet another instance of community rugby helping him.

"It's so good, it's a funny one, people talk about it like I'm giving back but it's really them continuing to give me so much more," he said.

"I'm just so grateful to be able to play and obviously I'm trying to help out with the halfbacks here and there where I can as well and pass on some of my experience."

Fellow former Wallaby Samu Kerevi, who has signed for Suntory, also has links to GPS and was running water for the Brisbane club last weekend.

It doesn't seem likely that the ball-crashing centre will follow Genia's lead and don the jersey but it's clear the importance of the community connection for the high-profile players.

"Everybody's different (around whether they want to play), I'm the guy who just loves playing, even when I was playing for the Wallabies when Robbie was the coach, I remember asking him to go out and play some club rugby and he said I could," Genia said.

"I just love the opportunity to go out and play."

His opening has come at just the right time, with Genia's return to Japan quickly coming up.

Genia, along with most of the professional rugby players playing in Japan, is awaiting approval from the Japanese government to return to Japan in the coming weeks after travel restrictions were eased.

Despite his looming departure, the season isn't expected to kick off until January and the prospect of a nine-month stint with no competitive rugby was not appealing 

"I'd never be worried that I'd lose touch or lose rhythm but it's just a case of realising how much you miss it, miss the enjoyment," he said.

"Even when I signed with Kintetsu, knowing how the seasons work over there, I was thinking at the time it would be amazing for my body but after six or seven months, my body's in good nick and I just want to get out there and play."

If having the chance to play club rugby is one silver lining in a crazy 2020 the other is having the opportunity to spend an uninterrupted time with his family.

Genia estimates he hasn't spent more than a handful of consecutive weeks in his own home since he became a professional rugby player and his time in Brisbane has allowed him to see his daughter Olivia start prep and experience the life of making school lunches and doing pick-ups and drop-offs, all duties he has relished.

GPS play Souths in the Hospital Challenge Cup on Saturday August 8 at Yoku Road, kicking off at 3:30pm AEST, LIVE on Rugby Xplorer and qld.rugby.