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'He'll be the most dangerous player': The Waratahs bad boy who could be the Wallabies' saviour

By Sam Smith

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Although the Waratahs fell to yet another heavy defeat, this time at the hands of the Crusaders, last weekend, there was a bright spot for winless New South Welshmen.


It might not feel like it given the Sydney-based side walked away from WIN Stadium in Wollongong having conceded eight tries, condemning them to their 11th straight defeat as they continue their search for a maiden win this year.

However, if barnstorming midfielder Izaia Perese can continue the form he found himself in against the Crusaders, then the club may produce the next Wallabies star.

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The 23-year-old was in fine touch for the Waratahs in their 54-28 loss, especially with ball in hand, as he showed plenty of physicality and intent to beat 10 defenders, run for 82 metres and score a try.

Perese’s try shouldn’t be taken lightly, either, as he scooted past the flailing defensive efforts of Sevu Reece and Tamaiti Williams before steamrolling Crusaders behemoth Leicester Fainga’anuku, which is no easy feat, to stroll on in near the posts.

All in all, it was a compelling display of explosive attacking rugby by the troubled youngster, whose career has been chequered by drug-related issues that plagued him during his brief spell in rugby league.


Formerly a schoolboy sensation while playing alongside future union and league stars such as Kalyn Ponga, Liam Wright and Jayden Su’A at Anglican Church Grammar School, Perese kicked-off his Super Rugby career with the Reds in 2016.

A cross-code move to the NRL with the Brisbane Broncos ensued three years later, but it was there were he was the centre of controversy after he was found guilty of obtaining cocaine and MDMA from a person being monitored by police.

While Perese avoided a conviction, he was duly sacked by the Broncos with just two NRL appearances to his name, which forced him to turn to Top 14 club Bayonne.

Nothing much came of his spell in France, which led to Perese’s decision to return to Australia and sign with the Waratahs ahead of this season.


Perese’s lifeline in Australian rugby got off on the wrong foot when he was red carded for a dangerous tackle in the Super Rugby AU opener in February, but since then, he has made every post a winner during a torrid campaign for the Waratahs.

His performance against the Crusaders was arguably his best in the sky-blue jersey, and it caught the eye of New Zealand Herald columnist Phil Gifford.

Reacting to the latest round of Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, Gifford claimed that Perese will “be the most dangerous player in a talented Wallaby backline” if Wallabies boss Dave Rennie selects him this year.

“At just 94kg Perese is a small man by modern midfield standards. Ngani Laumape, for example, is 103kg,” Gifford wrote for the New Zealand Herald.

“But what Perese might lack in bulk he makes up for with an intensity that’s almost scary. He attacks the line with what could fairly be called venomous intent. If Dave Rennie selects Perese he’ll be the most dangerous player in a talented Wallaby backline.”

Gifford wasn’t the only observer in awe of Perese’s showing on the weekend, as many fans took to Twitter to rave about the midfielder’s blockbusting match.

One user echoed Gifford’s sentiments about Perese being a potential game-breaker for Australia as they decreed that he “needs to be the bolter for Wallabies”.

Wallabies selection wouldn’t be a first for Perese, who has been part of many Australian squads while former head coach Michael Cheika was in charge.

Although a test cap has eluded Perese, an international appearance may not be far away as Rennie prepares to select his squad for the upcoming series against France in July.

If Perese, widely considered the Waratahs’ best player this season, can maintain his rich vein of form in Super Rugby, it wouldn’t surprise to see him in action against Les Bleus in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.


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