'I’m forever indebted': Perese out to end Waratahs stint on high

Tue, May 28, 2024, 6:10 AM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson

Whilst not the dream season he'd imagine, NSW Waratahs centre Izaia Perese is hell-bent on ending his stint on a high on Friday at Allianz Stadium.

In a special coincidence, Perese will close out his time in the sky blue jersey against his old side, Queensland Reds in Sydney, and is set to join former Brumbies coach Dan McKellar at English club Leicester.

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Perese joined the Waratahs in 2021 after a good word from assistant Jason Gilmore convinced then coach Rob Penney to sign the former Red.

The centre admitted he had hit 'rock bottom' before joining the club amid a drug offence and stint in France instantly repaying the faith with a breakout season that saw him handed a Wallabies debut.

“I’ve got some mixed emotions. It’s been a good four seasons here at the Tahs and I’m grateful for the opportunity they presented me with a contract," he told reporters.

“It started off with Jason Gilmore because he worked with me before and put in a good word for me and (former Waratahs coach, now Crusaders coach) Rob Penney gave me the benefit of the doubt and I’m forever indebted to ‘Pens’ and ‘Gilly’

“It’s led to an amazing opportunity for me to head overseas with my family now and make a financial decision.

“If it wasn’t for those guys, I don’t know where I’d be in my career.”

Perese has started 42 games for the club and played six times for his country, including his starting debut at the 2023 Rugby World Cup against Portugal.

“I think it’s just come with maturity and understanding the game," he said on his growth

“I grew up playing Rugby League so when I started as a rookie with the Reds, they just expected me to run and tackle hard, which I was more than happy to do but as a back, you’ve got to have more to your game than just running and tackling hard.

“I think over the last four years, I’ve had the likes of 'Gilly' and 'Whits' (assistant coach Chris Whittaker), along with Shannon Fraser, who helped develop those skills.

“That’s allowed me to go into the Wallabies environment where you’re exposed to the best in the country and working alongside the likes of Dave Rennie and Eddie Jones makes you a better player and have really brought the best out of me.”

A jersey switch of a different kind! Perese lighting up Suncorp Stadium with old side Reds before his move south to NSW

The 27-year-old is eager to add to his six caps before he heads overseas and gets the perfect chance to shine against a Reds backline lathed with internationals and form players.

Centres Hunter Paisami and Josh Flook have been in career-best form whilst the likes of Tim Ryan and Mac Grealy have rocketed into contention after breakout years on the wings.

Perese was excited for the challenge whether he starts on the wing, like last weekend against Moana Pasifika, or in the centres.

“They’ve got an exciting backline and a lot of good players," he added.

“It’s about who’s going to rock up that night and get into a dogfight. We’re going to go out there on Friday night and try and do a job on them.”