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'Wallaby in the making': Teenage Reds rookie stars on Super Rugby debut after just seven hours of notice

By Sam Smith
Mac Grealy. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

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The Reds may have fallen to their third defeat in four Super Rugby Trans-Tasman matches against the Blues on Friday, but the Queenslanders have at least one positive to take out of their 31-24 loss.


Injuries to key playmakers James O’Connor and Bryce Hegarty forced head coach Brad Thorn to make some late adjustments to his backline, which led to a debut for highly-touted teenager Mac Grealy.

At the age of just 19, Grealy was tasked with preparing for a showdown with the unbeaten Blues in front of his home fans on the back of only seven hours of notice.

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With kick-off scheduled for 7:45pm local time, Grealy revealed he was only notified that he would be playing in the match while he was watching the NBA at around lunchtime that day.

“It’s been a pretty crazy couple of days. Yesterday, Rabsy [O’Connor] went down so sort of knew Hegarty went into 10 and Hamo [Hamish Stewart], but then Hegarty was a bit of a hit or miss with his hamstring,” Grealy told Stan Sport after the match.

“I was just sitting around watching a bit of basketball, actually, with my roomies and then I got a call from Thorny around 12:30 and then knew it was game time.”

As daunting a prospect that may have seemed, Grealy handled the weight of expectation superbly as he acquitted himself against a Blues side that featured a total of nine All Blacks.


Proving he was no slouch with ball in hand, the former schoolboy sensation – who shunned the NRL to sign with the Reds – ran for 77 metres from just seven carries as he showed glimpses of his potential as a future Reds star.

Grealy’s impressive debut didn’t go unnoticed, as Stan Sport pundit and former Wallabies midfielder Morgan Turinui expressed his awe at how well the youngster adapted to his call-up so close to kick-off.

“I’ll tell you what, I wouldn’t have coped with that late a call-up, that’s for sure. What an impressive young man he was,” Turinui said when asked how he would have fared if put in a similar situation as a 19-year-old.

“There’s been a fair bit of buzz around Mac for a while. He could have taken the rugby league pathway, he was a genuine schoolboy hero from that Toowoomba region, so great to see him stay in rugby.”


While ex-All Blacks first-five Andrew Mehrtens added that Grealy “didn’t look out of place by any stretch”, Turinui took note of how well he played considering the loss of both O’Connor and Hegarty shortly before the match.

“We talked about it maybe being easier with the lead-in, but in terms of  the team that he walked into, no Hegarty, no O’Connor, Stewart fronting at 10, it’s not an easy footy situation that he walked into to perform, and he did admirably well, didn’t he.”

Grealy impact wasn’t lost on Queensland fans either, as plenty took to Twitter to praise the teenager, whose mentor while at Toowoomba’s Downlands College was ex-Wallabies lock Garrick Morgan.

One supporter even went as far to suggest Grealy could be in line for Wallabies honours himself at some stage down the line, while another said his efforts were “not bad for a bloke who only just learnt how to shave”.

Despite Grealy’s eye-catching induction into Super Rugby, the defeat leaves the Reds languishing in sixth place on the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman standings with just five competition points to their name.

If Thorn is as impressed by Grealy as the likes of Turinui, Mehrtens and many Reds fans are, the fullback may feature in the Reds’ final match of the season against the Hurricanes in Wellington next Friday.


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