CADEYRN NEVILLE: Rugby's Nearly Man Ready For His Wallabies' Shot

Tue, Mar 30, 2021, 1:30 AM
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
The Brumbies continued their winning ways over the Western Force in round six of Super Rugby AU

Throughout Cadeyrn Neville’s career he has arrived at new clubs with a super structure as head-turning as the container ship, the Ever Given.

For varying reasons, the 2.02m, 120kg giant has also run aground when trying to reach his elusive final destination through that narrow channel that is Test selection for the Wallabies.

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Selectors looked inside those containers marked “aggression”, “body height”, "consistency" and “natural skills” to find them never quite full enough.

He was too raw initially, not aggressive enough at other times. Some coaches saw what he couldn’t do rather than what he could and there were simply more complete locks on occasions.

Joining the ACT Brumbies as his third Super Rugby club has been transforming for Neville, 32, because he’s finally playing in a mature, well-grooved side.

His early Melbourne Rebels sides (2012-15) were rarely that and his Queensland Reds days (2016-17) were in more disjointed, losing sides.

He has his list of jobs to do in the high-achieving Brumbies pack and everyone else takes care of their own detail.

That clarity of a defined role, notably as a maul master, and playing with regular winners for the first time has been huge for Neville.

Reds scrumhalf Nick Frisby continues to push his claims for a Wallabies jersey, as he set up big man Caderyn Neville for a try.

Being selected in coach Dave Rennie’s 40-man squad for a three-day camp on the Gold Coast next month is big but Neville knows better than anyone that being picked in a “form and potential” group is no guarantee of anything.

Robbie Deans, Ewen McKenzie, Michael Cheika and Rennie, last year, have all picked Neville in so-called “wider training squads” as far back as 2012 without ever selecting him for the real thing.

Neville became a Wallaby when Deans flew him to Europe in 2012 as cover for the suspended Rob Simmons but he never saw time in a game.

His form for the Brumbies has been excellent. He’s a lineout winner and driver in the centre of those regular rumbling mauling drives to the tryline and an expert at disrupting opposition mauls.

He backed up alertly on the short side for a try of his own against the Western Force last Friday.

“For sure, it’s good to be back in that set-up and get recognition at this stage of the season,” Neville said of his call up to Rennie’s squad. 

“(Last year in Rennie’s squad) probably the most important thing for me was getting familiar with the players who are going to be regular fixtures there as well as the coaches.

“How well you work with each other is ultimately what’s most important.

“It’s awesome to have this many Brumbies (14) involved. It’s easier working with guys you train with every day and you are proud of your mates getting there.

“Personally, it feels a long way off before they assemble the (Wallabies) team though.”

Neville’s has learnt his tough trade at lock bit by bit and gained knowledge at every turn to build on the big engine he always plays with.

Neville in action for the Reds during his time at the Queensland side | Getty Images
Neville in action for the Reds during his time at the Queensland side | Getty Images

At the Reds in 2016, he got a valuable mirror on his game when Brad Thorn was still Queensland Under-20s coach.

He chased Thorn for a chat himself, rather than be spoonfed the introduction that too many footballers rely on.

“Brad put it back on me straight away when he asked me what sort of footballer I wanted to be,” Neville said at the time.

“A player who has a big, physical presence around the field” was the right answer from Neville.

“Improving things like shoulder strength and balance to make better contact when tackling was one thing I worked at.”

Consistency and getting his body height down to be more effective have been big areas.

“Attitude is a big part of aggression and you always want to be influencing situations on the field,” Neville will tell you.


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That mindset has been built over time but Neville did seem one of those lost what-could-have-been players when he exited to the Toyota Industries Shuttles in Japan for two-and-a-half-years (2017-2020).

He knows the Brumbies are in for a tough clash against the chastened NSW Waratahs at the SCG on Friday night after the sudden sacking of coach Rob Penney.

“They’ll have extra motivation for sure to give it to us at (their) home,” Neville said.

“I feel for them because I’ve been in the same situation at the Reds (in 2016). You’ve got no choice but try to respond to adversity and overcome it.”

Neville was at the Reds in 2016 when Richard Graham was dumped as coach early in the season and replaced by co-coaches Nick Stiles and Matt O’Connor.

Neville has been around the scene for a long time now since those early years when every story referenced him as the former rower who represented Australia at the Youth Olympics.

As a tight forward, there’s nothing at all wrong with the long route around The Cape of Good Hope when the direct route via the Suez Canal is blocked.

Just remember the likes of Laurie Weeks, Tai McIsaac, Huia Edmonds and Josh Mann-Rea who proved it’s never too late to become a Test player.

The Waratahs will kick off round seven of Harvey Norman Super Rugby AU on Friday evening when they host the Brumbies at the Sydney Cricket Ground, kicking off at 7.45pm AEDT, LIVE on Stan Sport,click here to purchase tickets.