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‘Happy with the dub’: Jordan Petaia has come a long way in four years

By Finn Morton
Jordan Petaia of Australia poses for a portrait during the Australia Rugby World Cup 2023 Squad photocall on August 30, 2023 in Saint-Etienne, France. (Photo by Adam Pretty - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Four years ago, teenager Jordan Petaia was thrust into the international arena as a headline-grabbing Rugby World Cup bolter for the Wallabies.

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Heralded as a rising star after shining for Brisbane State High in Queensland’s GPS high school competition, Petaia was talked up as a generational talent in Australia after starring for the Reds.

There was plenty to like about the utility, and it was time to unleash him on the rugby world.

Coach Michael Cheika picked the 19-year-old in the Wallabies’ 2019 Rugby World Cup squad. Petaia ended up starting at outside centre alongside Samu Kerevi in the quarter-final against England in Oita.

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But the Wallabies lost. Four more years of hurt, frustration and sorrow followed as Aussies waited for the 2023 World Cup.

This tournament started just as the last one ended in the midfield. Petaia started in the centres alongside Kerevi when Australia played Georgia in their tournament opener last weekend.

Petaia, now 23, was especially impressive early on. It was the best he’s looked in Wallaby gold for quite some time.

The outside centre scored the Wallabies’ first try of the tournament after just two minutes, and showed some brilliant skill to set up wing Mark Nawaqanitawase shortly after.

Points Flow Chart

Australia win +20
Time in lead
81
Mins in lead
0
100%
% Of Game In Lead
0%
43%
Possession Last 10 min
57%
0
Points Last 10 min
7

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Four years on, a vastly more experienced Jordan Petaia stepped up when the Aussies needed him too. The electric talent helped the Wallabies secure their first win under coach Eddie Jones.

“Every game in this tournament is do-or-die so you take them when they come,” Petaia told RugbyPass about an hour after full-time.

“Tonight, the first game of the tournament, it’s just good to get a win.

“Didn’t have a great start to the year but we knew we were building well every game so it’s just about also building on this game.

“We’ve got a bit there tonight to work on but happy with the dub and happy to move on and get into the next game.”

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While injuries have disrupted his progression over the past few years, Petaia has experience that is simply invaluable to a young Wallabies outfit.

Petaia is part of an elite group within the Wallabies’ setup, and that shouldn’t go unnoticed. There are only eight players in the squad who have gone to a World Cup before, and the Queenslander is one of them.

Coach Jones also picked a team to play Georgia with just 343 Test caps between them, which was the youngest Australia team at a World Cup since 2003 vs. Namibia in Adelaide.

Playing at a World Cup is simply a different beast, so the Wallabies needed their more experienced campaigners to step up.

“It’s good to get a win on the board and tick off that first match of the tournament. Just good to get those nerves as well out of the way,” Petaia added.

“We had a gameplan going into the game so I think we executed that really well and the team just made it so easy for us outside backs, especially just to get our hands on the ball early and do what we’ve got to do for our team.”

Petaia appeared to be on track for Player of the Match honours after 10 minutes. The centre looked lethal every time he touched the ball, and that showed on the scoreboard as well.

But by the end of the Test, it wasn’t a surprise to see Ben Donaldson get the nod.

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Donaldson, 24, was a surprise selection ahead of the World Cup opener, but the playmaker silenced some critics with a breathtaking 25-point haul.

“Man of the Match, he played out of his skin tonight. He’s always been that player Dono so it’s good to see him finally getting that credit,” Petaia said, with a smile on his face.

(He) executed his role really well tonight, he stepped in and did the job I thought amazingly. It’s kudos to the work he’s been putting in behind closed doors.

“Hasn’t had a lot of games this year but played really well tonight.”

But the moral of this story remains the same.

There are some exciting players in the Wallabies’ squad including the likes of Ben Donaldson, but Jordan Petaia brings an invaluable level of experience to the table at his second Rugby World Cup.

In four years, Jordan Petaia has gone from an exciting World Cup bolter to one of the Wallabies’ most important players.

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