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Hot Rodda backs Wallabies jersey and Force home over foreign cash

Tue, 01/03/2022, 8:33 am
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
The Melbourne Rebels hosted the Western Force at AAMI Park.

Izack Rodda’s relationship with early mentor Brad Thorn will never be what it was but it may get back to passing pleasantries on Friday in Perth.

“I'd like to think there's no bad blood there. I wouldn't mind speaking to Thorny,” Rodda said in his matter-of-fact way.

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The giant Wallabies lock has moved well past the emotional and surprise split from the Queensland Reds in May, 2020. He’s just signed on until 2024 with the Western Force and extras like the cleansing waters of Cottesloe Beach near his new home.

Rodda has quickly become the engine at the core of the productive Force pack as his team eyes a rare Perth home game against the Reds on Friday night at HBF Park.

In 2020, Thorn took Rodda’s exit hard as a walkout, a breaking of trust, because he thought he knew his Reds. The coach thought they would all make sacrifices together through financial uncertainty when average pay cuts of 60 per cent were brokered to get rugby through the first phase of the pandemic.

Thorn had made Rodda his captain for a game in 2019 and schooled him on lock arts to help his rise into the Test ranks.

Rodda had also signed on for a new four-year deal with the Reds just eight months earlier so the normally unflappable Thorn was completely perplexed by Rodda terminating his contract.

Most have looked at the split from Australian rugby’s point of view.

Rodda making such a huge call at just 23 gave him a control over his own career and life that he still gains confidence from.

“As a person, you’ve got to be willing to back yourself in what you believe in over anything,” Rodda said.

"You want to learn from each choice whether it's the right or the wrong.

“You don’t want to be told what you want to do your whole career. You've got to have a voice if you believe it's right and chase that but also be willing to take feedback on it as well.”

Rodda headed to Lyon and an education in the hard, forward-dominated scraps of french rugby. The Wallabies will benefit from that hardening all the way to next year’s Rugby World Cup in the same country.

Rodda, now 25, has willingly accepted less money to commit to Rugby Australia until 2024 because the gold jersey means more than a hefty deal in Europe or Japan.

He didn’t say it but that will always be his counter to Thorn on questions of loyalty and sacrifice.

“I honestly thought our relationship was fine, but he said what he said (in the media), and that's totally up to him and his opinion," Rodda said of Thorn.

"I respect him highly as a player and as a coach.

"I haven't spoken to him, but I'm a nice guy and he is as well. I'd like to think there's no bad blood there. I wouldn't mind speaking to Thorny."

Rodda’s lineout steals, his leg-driving carries and enjoyment in the Force style of play is obvious on top of his more hidden skills as lineout general and scrum rock.

He’s excited about building the next stage of his career at the Force and didn’t bring Queensland or NSW, the state of his birth, into the picture.

“I didn’t reach out to any other teams,” Rodda said of contract discussions.

“We are a really tight group here at the Force and that has made the transition easy since I came in this season. I feel we are building towards something special.”

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He's no doubt heard of the $1 million-plus per season price tag that Wallabies packmate Rory Arnold has signed for in Japan.

“I’ve made it pretty clear my whole career I always want to play for my country. For me, it was a point in my career where I chose the jersey over the money. I think the jersey is definitely a lure to get players home," Rodda said.

“I love playing with Rory. I think we are a good partnership and it would be massive (if he was selected from overseas by the Wallabies).”

Arnold, Quade Cooper, Marika Koroibete and Samu Kerevi are four high-quality Wallabies playing abroad. Under the new “Kerevi Clause”, only three can be selected for any series from off-shore.

Rodda doesn’t have to do any guessing about his spot. If he keeps racking up strong performances, his spot in the gold pack will be assured.

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