16 May Cusack comes alive in the loose
The moniker of “former Australian sevens star” seems to be one which Tom Cusack can’t shake. It’s an easy quip for a commentator, a tagline for a player who is just starting to build his profile in Super Rugby.
Having left his days in the limited-numbers format behind him, Cusack is starting to hone his game in fifteens and albeit in a loss, his performance against the Rebels last Saturday was his best in a Brumbies shirt to date.
Cusack finished with seven carries for 35 metres beating three defenders. Add to that a crucial, try-assist offload and a five-pointer of his own in attack. That’s an openside’s dream stat-line on offence. a try, an assist and plenty of work around the park.
Everything good the Brumbies were doing seemed to be running through Cusack and Brumbies fans finally got to see the footballer Cusack is. Anyone who watched the Griffin Legal John I Dent Cup or the National Rugby Championship[NRC] will have known this already however.
In club rugby, Cusack was simply unplayable. Seldom can one player win a rugby match on their own, not least playing in the backrow but Cusack seemed to do that every week for his beloved Royals.
When playing at that level, Cusack’s athleticism becomes hard to deal with. His ability to move at his size is elite, when given space he’s big enough to bust through tackles while nimble enough to run-around slower forwards. Week after week it just seemed like a showcase for the Canberra native, a chance to be the best player on the pitch and show it.
The result for Royals was an undefeated season, culminating in a Grand-Final win over Wests. Cusack played a predictably integral role.
Cusack was rewarded with a new Brumbies contract and the UC Vikings captaincy. He was named NRC Player’s Player of the year at the RUPA awards for his NRC campaign, where he lead the Vikings to a top of the table finish and an agonisingly close loss in the Grand-final.
Now, in his second full season with the Brumbies, Cusack is blossoming. Injuries to starters at various points has meant Cusack has played every game and started all but one.
The improvement has been visible too. If you compare Cusack’s performance in Melbourne with the game he put in against the Rebels on Saturday night, the growth is significant.
At 25, the best is yet to come as well. The four years spent playing sevens made Cusack an exceptional footballer, and now he is learning the dark arts at openside. He doesn’t have a bad teacher in David Pocock either.
There’s no ceiling on how good Tom Cusack can be. Intelligent, athletic and a work ethic that can’t be taught, Brumbies fans should be excited to see the continued improvement of a local product, finding his feet at Super Rugby level.