Former Wallabies midfielder Morgan Turinui has described re-capturing the signature of Waratahs flyer Jack Maddocks as “one of the great priorities” in Australian rugby following his impressive return to action over the weekend.
Maddocks starred in New South Wales’ 32-26 defeat to the Queensland Reds in Brisbane on Friday, putting on a scintillating attacking show that saw him run for 139 metres, beat a pair of defenders and make three clean breaks.
The 23-year-old’s capped off his display with a belter of a try in the second half after running a deft line to receive an inside pass from teammate Lachlan Swinton that set him free to dot down untouched under the posts.
In what was undoubtedly his best performance for the Waratahs since moving back to Sydney this year after three-season spell with the Melbourne Rebels, the match was also the first time that Maddocks was selected in his favoured fullback position for his new side.
During his time in Melbourne and in his previous appearances for the Waratahs prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, the seven-test Wallaby struggled for game time in the No. 15 jersey due to the presence of Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau.
Maddocks was subsequently utilised predominantly on the wing, with some suggesting he could even ply his trade at No. 10 due to his diverse skill set.
However, speaking to the Rugby Ruckus Tight Five podcast, Turinui indicated that if Maddocks is to realise his test-level credentials and consistently replicate the form he showed at Suncorp Stadium on Friday, he needs to remain at fullback.
“Jack Maddocks is a fullback, and excellent fullback, and he’s going to be for a long time,” Turinui, who coached Maddocks at the Rebels during his time as an assistant in 2017, said.
“People have talked about him being a 10 because he’s a skilful player, he can actually throw a ball of both sides quite well.
“We saw a decent left foot kick from him on the weekend, so he can kick off both feet when he has to, and it’s great to see players with the confidence and the work ethic to have that confidence that goes behind it.
“To kick off both feet’s what we want from our fullbacks, it’s what we ideally want from our wingers, and it’s definitely what we want from our 10s.
“You see a talented footballer with good vision, good skills, we think ‘Maybe we should make him a 10’, and perhaps that’s what we did with [Stephen] Larkham all those years ago, we’re always looking to turn a player into the next great 10.
“This bloke’s a fullback. He definitely isn’t a winger, he’s not brilliant positionally as a winger, defensively doesn’t suit him as a winger.
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“He’ll come up and make a really good front-on tackle one-on-one if he has to as a fullback, but he was always out of position just giving too much space to quality attackers at wing.
“It made him look worse than he was, he was unhappy on the wing, he’s a 15.”
Turinui said that the departures of Folau (Catalan Dragons) and Beale (Racing 92) from the Waratahs has given Maddocks a chance to stake his claim for the Australian fullback spot under the tutelage of new head coach Dave Rennie.
“He understands the Rebels, they’ve got Haylett-Petty. He [understood] early days with Beale, he was hesitant, probably, to come back to the Tahs at the time.
“Folau was still probably going to be there, and Beale, as well, was going to be there, so now the Red Sea’s opened and he has an opportunity.
“He’s a fullback, and now what he’s going to get is an opportunity to create that body of work for Dave Rennie to watch.
“He’s going to wear that 15 jersey, and if he continues the way he is from the weekend, he’ll be in that Wallabies team.”
While Maddocks impressed in his first game back in four months, speculation has been rife about a potential move to Major League Rugby in the United States.
Reports emerged last month that Maddocks was one of three fringe Wallabies, including Brumbies halfback Joe Powell and Waratahs prop Tom Robertson, who were in talks to join the newly-formed LA Giltinis.
The Venice Beach-based franchise has strong Australian links through its owner Adam Gilchrist and coaches Darren Coleman and Stephen Hoiles.
Despite not joining the club until November, the coaching pair have targeted the off-contract trio as professional players in Australia continue to endure a 60 percent pay slash due to the financial strain caused by coronavirus.
Although Maddocks missed out on Rennie’s ‘players of national interest’ squad in April, Turinui believes keeping the young speedster in Australia should be at the top of the Wallabies’ and Waratahs’ to-do lists.
“The other thing is, he’s off contract at the end of the year. He should be one of the great priorities for the Tahs and Wallabies to lock in.”
Maddocks and the Waratahs will be aiming to bounce back from last week’s loss on Saturday when they take on the Western Force in what will be the Perth side’s first match back in Super Rugby in three years.
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