From the wilderness to the drivers seat.
Stephen Brett has ridden the ANZ Pacific Nations Cup wave all the way back to the international big time.
The talented 23 yr old from Christchurch has been in the shadow of Dan Carter, having had interesting professional rugby career to date, it has been all about joyous highs and lows over the past 3 years.
He has stepped into the pivotal position of first five on numerous occasions, as well as the number 12 jersey when needed. He is a super talented footy player and looked the business in the Crusaders unit prior to this super 14 season. As the long 09 season went on he fell from favour and seemed destined to be another “he is not ready casualty”. He was not mentioned at all as the AB’s and Junior All Black sides were named and it looked like a breather few months for the young man.
That was until the ANZ Pacific Nations Cup came along & torpedoed him to the fore once again. Injury and elevation by Luke McAlister have chucked Brett a lifeline and he has grabbed it with both hands. Most people flying to Fiji are having premonitions of hammocks, swims and cold drinks filling their heads; he had rugby rugby rugby on his mind. Initially landing as the backup to teammate Colin Slade, Mr Brett has risen to the occasion of international rugby and grown with mature play. This sublime form has not gone un-noticed and he has mounted a genuine challenge on the precious number 10 jersey for NZ.
Mere days remain until Bledisloe 1 and neither McAlister nor Stephen Donald are certainties to start for the All Blacks. Should this pair be ruled unfit, Henry is likely to start Weepu at No10 and have Brett listed in the reserves as specialist cover; so all of a sudden has a real chance to feature in the AB’s side.
Now from looking like he was out all together, he is all of a sudden in the head of expeditions for the next NZ rugby journey. Change and injury have riddled the NZ side in 09, this has also offered chances for those that want it the most. Brett showed on the fast tracks of Fiji that he possesses a cool head in the face of heat. With the ball flying to him he looks under control & composed, his talents are obvious and he is built to play in the agile standoff position. He can run and dance side-steps galore if required, or allowed at the elite level.
Playing Australia is always a test, especially when they are playing in George Smith’s 100th test match. This will make them all bulletproof and determined to get their mitts all over the ball and rob NZ of their prized trophy. In the inside backs department the Australians have people with lots of IQ upstairs, be it Brett or anyone else at number 10 jumper they will be in for a huge day at the office.
All Blacks coach Graham Henry said this about the duties in the number 10 position these days. "Playing five-eighth is lot more difficult today than when Wayne Smith or Grant Fox played five-eighth because you have got to run the ship," Henry said.
"It is not so demanding from set piece. But from phase play situations, when you have to get people organised, it is a hell of a difficult ask: much more difficult today than it has been because of the picket fence [defence] in front of you.
This week’s picket fence will be painted in the Gold of Australia, their coach is Stephen Brett’s old mentor and things could not be scripted better for somebody to make a name for themselves. Test rugby is tough, they say it is won in the forward battles, but the smarts shown in the vital 10 position do a lot to determine the outcome too.
This situation always makes for exciting rugby, it also keeps the dreams and hopes alive as we see the gateway for players is always wide open. 5 weeks ago Brett was drifting out to sea, now he is surfing on a great wave and has the chance to create his own destiny.