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From a Waratahs Academy discard to pivotal Wallabies World Cup member, in two short seasons Pat McCabe has cemented himself as one of Australian rugby’s brightest young stars.
While his rise to Australian rugby’s elite might have raised a few eyebrows, it comes as no surprise to Brumbies fans who know the 24-year-old’s on-field persona more intimately than others.
Having made his debut as a relatively unknown against the Force in 2010, McCabe went on to play every minute of every game that season, displaying the maturity, composure and tenacity that he has become known for.
Given his status as a mainstay in the Brumbies starting side since his debut, 2012 has proved a frustrating experience for McCabe. Having undergone surgery for a shoulder dislocation suffered at last year’s World Cup, he spent much of the Brumbies’ lengthy pre-season and the beginning of the side’s Super Rugby campaign inactive – a time he didn’t enjoy.
“It was extremely difficult watching from the sidelines and not being able to contribute to what the guys were doing on the field,” McCabe said.
“Not playing makes you feel a little bit distant from the group, especially when you’re doing separate training and you’re working with the rehab team and the physios a lot more.”
While McCabe is overjoyed to have returned to normal rugby life and will be looking forward to adding to his 11 Wallabies caps in 2012, his immediate focus is on returning to top form for the Brumbies.
“I definitely haven’t played nearly as well as I’d like to and expect to play at, so hopefully within the next couple of weeks I can get more involved and have more of an impact on the way that we’re playing,” he said.
But with the shoulder operation he underwent just a short time ago still lingering at the front of his mind, McCabe realises a return to his peak will depend on how his shoulder copes on the field.
“The longer it goes where I don’t have any more problems, the more I’ll get used to it being a normal shoulder again,” he said.
While he may feel tweaks are still needed to improve his own performances, McCabe’s return has filled the vacancy of a leadership figure in the Brumbies’ back line – a role coupled with his vice-captaincy duties.
The task has been one which he has relished so far.
“It’s been great and it’s obviously a huge honour and one that I take really seriously,” he said.
“It’s all about providing a good example around the club for the less experienced guys and leading by my actions.
While McCabe admits it will take time to return to his best form and grow into the leadership role entrusted to him, Brumbies fans have every reason to be excited about seeing McCabe’s continuing rise in 2012. And the best news is that they can expect him to shine in Brumbies colours for years to come.
“I love the Brumbies and I love the people here and the town, so it’s definitely where I want to be playing and I’m hoping I can be here for a while longer,” he said.