I don’t think I can sum up my time with the Waratahs in just a few words. I spent just over four and a half years with the club in two separate stints, and I absolutely loved it. The club gave me my first contract out of sevens and under-20’s and I had a ball during my time there. I did have a break from the club in 2015 when I ventured to Italy to play with club side Calvisano and when I returned a lot had changed, mainly personnel. During my time with the club though I made lifelong friends who I am sure I will keep in touch with forever.
In 2017, I didn’t get as much game time as I had hoped, which is always frustrating but understandable with three halfbacks all-vying for the available minutes. Jake Gordon, Nick Phipps and myself were all there, all playing good footy and each bringing something different to the Waratahs. This had us sharing the available minutes. While it’s good for you as an individual to be competitive and get better, you ultimately want to get as much game time as possible. The backend of the season was probably the telling point that I may have to look elsewhere.
Fortunately for me the Brumbies came knocking.
The Brumbies being the powerhouse they have been in Australian Rugby was a big factor in making the decision to move to Canberra. Their history speaks for itself – they produce good players and they produce good results. I was very keen on becoming apart of their rich history in the coming years.
The move to the Brumbies all went down quite quickly if I’m honest. I have a good relationship with the coach Dan McKellar, I couldn’t speak more highly of him and we get along well. Since coming down he has been great to talk to and what I’m hearing really excites me. Having a coach that you can speak to and work with so easily always helps in professional sport.
Being able to link up with guys like Christian Lealiifano is very exciting and inspiring. What he has overcome in recent times just speaks volumes of his character and personality. It excites me that the club has a good bunch of blokes down here and I’m enjoying being amongst them all during this gruelling preseason. I think as a rugby community we are lucky in the fact that the people that make up our game both on and off the field are generally of great quality.
Earning the respect of the playing group is one of the most important things I see when moving to a new club. When arriving to a new team there are certain ways that things are done, parts of the game they hang their hat on and certain protocols you must learn quickly. When you’re coming in as the new player you must show you’re willing to work and willing to sacrifice to earn the respect and trust of your teammates.
Trust and respect is a big thing in footy, and team sports in general, especially in pre-season when it is such a mentally and physically gruelling time. It’s a good chance for any new player to show they are at the club for all the right reasons. I’d built up strong relationships with the playing group at the Waratah’s and I’m hopeful that I can do that all over again at the Brumbies. It’s something I am really looking forward too.
In terms of playing, nobody can promise regular minutes to anyone in footy. On the other hand though the Brumbies have provided me with the opportunity to do so. I want to do what I’m good at and continue to push and be pushed by those guys around me so that I am getting the best out of myself. I want to stick true to my game and provide my points of difference for the Brumbies and hopefully the rest takes care of itself.
Being pushed by a group of guys to be the best isn’t unfamiliar territory for me though. Growing up with 3 brothers who all played backyard rugby together, you learnt the ropes pretty quickly or you got taught a lesson. My oldest brother Ben is playing in Japan right now after 10 years of Super Rugby, Tom who is just below me is in the Australian 7’s side, while my youngest brother Zac is just out of school and doing good things in Brisbane while also being in the Australian u20’s wider training squad. They are a great support network for me that understand what it’s like to be a professional athlete. It gives me the opportunity to bounce ideas off them and share in their knowledge as well as providing many years of endless tackle practice. Throughout my career my family have been an immense support network and it did not change one bit while making the decision to move to Canberra.
Leaving Sydney however didn’t come as easy as putting pen to paper. My partner Alicia Quirk is based out of Sydney with the Australian Women’s 7’s program and for her to continue chasing her dreams she can’t leave Sydney. It was a difficult choice to make as we’d been living together in Sydney and now we are back to living separately. Alicia was unreal about the whole thing though. She understands my aspirations and that I want to be playing at the highest level while I can as she herself is in the same scenario. In the end she said it was a no brainer and encouraged me take the opportunity with both hands.
Having previously represented Australia at junior level, being able to pull on a Wallabies jersey remains the ultimate goal for me. That goal has never wavered throughout my career, and if I got to pull on the gold jersey it would mean the world to me. Obviously, there is so much to achieve and so much to work on in order to reach that goal.
Following my time in Canberra, I would seriously consider another stint in a European competition if the time in my life is right. I believe it’s a unique opportunity in which Rugby has to offer. First of all I have goals that I want to tick off here before I even think about a move overseas to continue my career.
Bring on 2018 with the Brumbies.
ACT Brumbies Rugby Union. Lover of Fishing, Golfing, Surfing and fan of the Pro Bull Riding. Instagram: @mattylucas9