How Andrew Kellaway unlocked the secret to becoming a frontline Wallaby

Thu, Aug 31, 2023, 1:30 AM
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
The Wallabies pushed the All Blacks all the way in Dunedin

It’s just as well Andrew Kellaway has a calm head because the rest of us went dizzy long ago from the merry-go-round at fullback for the Wallabies.

Just who would be wearing the No.15 jersey to open this World Cup has been a mystery pretty much since the 2019 tournament closed. 

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There’s been talk on just about every element of the Wallabies in terms of selections, World Cup omissions, goalkicking, results and much more.

Reassuringly, the chatter about fullback has gone quiet. It reflects the general comfort that the vital role has safely settled in Kellaway’s hands. 

Just last year, Tom Banks, Reece Hodge, Tom Wright, Jock Campbell and Jordan Petaia, for all of three minutes against England, were rotated through the fullback role with Kellaway.

You saw exactly what Kellaway offers in multiple ways in the tight first half against France in Paris.

He bobbed up early with the long pass to put Mark Nawaqanitawase over for his try.

He combined with the same winger for an excellent try-saving tackle in the corner shortly after.

He made one of his skating, probing runs later in the half and there was a good chasing tackle as well.

Those assets, his efficiency under high kicks and that 2021 glow that he knows how to score a Test try (nine in his debut year) all add up to a convincing package.

Kellaway always radiates a humble pinch-me quality when you talk to him.  

He’s played 24 Tests at wing and fullback in three years and knows the chance to play even one might easily have eluded him. 

Not for the first time, Kellaway said: “It was such a shock in the first place to be called up. It was kinda out of nowhere.

“It may sound like a cliché but one game for the Wallabies was enough. Every one after is the bonus I’m in right now.”

That in no way infers that Kellaway is idling a little because his career goal has been achieved. Far from it.

He doesn’t know exactly why his time came to be picked for the Wallabies but he knows why it did.

To explain.

"I probably floated through training for three or four years, that early time with the NSW Waratahs and so on,” he said candidly.

"You don’t know what you don’t know, right? I didn’t know I needed to push harder, compete more and to train like you play to be at my best.”

The transformation produced results for English club Northampton Saints and Kiwi club Counties Manukau before the upgrades were obvious with the Melbourne Rebels in 2020.

Maturity is the cover-all word. He's been another of those overnight sensations seven years in the making.

“They weren’t skill improvements so much as something more holistic around the game…that mindset change to just having a crack,” Kellaway said.

"The fear of failure was no longer the big elephant in the room with me.

"There were so many lessons but being OK with being yourself was a big one, not trying to be liked. 

"Anyway, having a crack meant more ball, tackling more, being in the game more and all of a sudden things clicked. All that stuff I’d trained for in a lot of good rugby programs came out because I hadn’t known how to use it before.”

The Wallabies are reaping the benefits of Kellaway, 27, finding the right formula when you know that a number of fine former Australian Under-20s don’t reach that point.

Kellaway is relishing this World Cup challenge in France. He knows the professional rugby life is a privilege because he could be “on the tools” instead.

Andrew Kellaway believes the pressure is always on to perform regardless of whether it's a World Cup year. Photo: Julius Dimataga/RA Media

He also has been brought up on enough World Cup history to feel he wants to help paint some more himself.

"Unfortunately, my first World Cup memory (as an eight-year-old) is the Jonny Wilkinson moment, the field goal to beat us in the 2003 final,” Kellaway said.

"There have been some pretty cool moments around the World Cup. I was in the Royal Oak Hotel (at Sydney’s Double Bay) to watch the 2015 final. It was more than pumping that night.

"Not long after meeting guys like Adam Ashley-Cooper, Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale at the Waratahs, I’m watching them in a final on the biggest stage at Twickenham. The spectacle is huge.

"You talk incentive or carrot for your own career, there aren’t much bigger than that.”

As said earlier, Kellaway still has his pinch-me moments.

He’s also part of the Wallabies’ leadership group. He's become a calm and respected figure.

Being able to share some of the hard-earned wisdom that's got him there with younger Wallabies will be invaluable over the coming weeks.

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