August 20, 2012
Rathbone not ready to leap back in
His career was cut short by persistent knee injuries and he’s been out of the game for three years, but that hasn’t stopped former ACT Brumbies and Wallabies stars from backing Clyde Rathbone for a possible Super Rugby return.
Rathbone retired in 2009 but is back training with the Brumbies to see if his body can withstand the rigours of a comeback.
Owen Finegan was Rathbone’s captain when the pair played together in the Brumbies’ last Super Rugby title – in 2004.
They returned to the field together in a Wests Legends game earlier this year, prompting Finegan to try to entice the former flyer to play for the Gungahlin Eagles – who Finegan coaches in the John I Dent Cup.
Finegan said if Rathbone’s body holds up then he has no doubt he’d be a valuable addition to any professional rugby team, whether in Australia or overseas.
But Finegan thought his old teammate might struggle to break his way into an emerging Brumbies back line.
Players like Henry Speight, Joe Tomane, Jesse Mogg and Robbie Coleman all showed this season that they had big futures at Super Rugby level.
Finegan wasn’t sure whether Rathbone, at 31, would be able to force his way back into the line-up.
‘‘If he’s young enough to go back in, you’re a long time retired so why not go back in and give it another crack, I reckon it’s a good idea,’’ he said.
But former Wallabies flyhalf Rod Kafer said Rathbone would, at the very least, be an invaluable squad member.
His experience of 26 Tests and 52 Super Rugby caps would provide added depth to a squad filled with young guns.
Not only that, Kafer said Rathbone would bolster the leadership stocks and was the kind of ‘‘quality’’ person every club would benefit from having around.
Rathbone was ‘‘young enough and fit enough’’ and ‘‘ticked a few boxes’’.
‘‘Any player who’s played for Australia can offer a rugby team something and Clyde has that ability to be a player who was very quick, very good in the contact, a good defender, a real competitor,’’ Kafer said.
‘‘[He’s a] tough, uncompromising rugby player and a good addition to a squad, and given the Brumbies have got some challenges in improving their line-up he’d be a bloke who’d come in and instantly improve the depth of the squad.
‘‘Potentially filling a role as either outside centre or a winger, I think he’d certainly add a lot to the side.’’
Kafer added he would return fresh after his time out of the game.
‘‘We’ve seen guys – Radike Samo, Nathan Sharpe – who are Wallabies in their mid-30s so there’s no reason why [Rathbone can’t play at 31],’’ he said.
‘‘For Clyde it was really ... injuries that pulled him up somewhat prematurely ... so he might only have a training age of 27-28 because he missed the last three or four years.
‘‘I suspect he’s a bloke who could certainly make a difference.’’
Rathbone retired from rugby prematurely in 2009 after being repeatedly sidelined with groin, knee, facial and hamstring issues.
The tackle-shedding winger revealed to The Canberra Times in February this year he had fought a life-long battle with depression.
A Brumbies official confirmed yesterday Rathbone hoped to snare a vacant backs position.
‘‘He’s one of several players looking at filling our last few positions,’’ he said.
‘‘Clyde will continue on when we get back into full pre-season training in October and see how he goes.’’
The Brumbies – who were unlucky to miss the finals – also have a second-row vacancy, which coach Jake White was hoping to sign while home in South Africa.
South African born, Rathbone captained his birth country’s under-21 side to World Cup victory in 2002 but then decided to play for Australia, which he qualified for through his Australian-born paternal grandmother.
White was his coach at that World Cup and the pair are close friends.
White offered him a chance earlier this season but Rathbone initially turned him down