Kurtley Beale – Up close and personal with Wasps latest recruit
Wasps new boy Kurtley Beale talks about his perspective, playing philosophy and how he intends to vindicate the Premiership's biggest price tag.
If anyone has explained the expression ‘being sent to Coventry' to Kurtley Beale yet, he either did not take any notice or remains completely unfazed. Though in the midst of a long, slow slog of gym-based rehabilitation work to strengthen a wrecked left knee, the supremely gifted Australian bubbles with enthusiasm.
Cynics might point at a hefty Wasps contract, believed to be worth £750,000 per season, as the source of Beale's demeanour. New clubmate James Haskell, never shy of offering such things, has rolled out the welcome mat with a moniker – ‘The Bealionnaire' – just to ward off any awkwardness. The cunning plan appears to have worked. Beale is at ease.
His opening remarks centre around the Ricoh Arena and the experience of watching a 25-20 defeat of Exeter Chiefs on the Premiership's opening day. He was impressed with what occurred either side of the touchlines."It just felt good to be involved," explains Beale, who sat next to fellow new signing Kyle Eastmond in the stands. "I'm delighted to be here and looking forward to getting back on the pitch as soon as possible. It was a tough game, but a great way to start the season."
The thing that surprised me most was the atmosphere the Wasps fans created. It's pretty magical to be hearing chants. It really spices things up and makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end."At our first trial against Leeds [Yorkshire Carnegie, a couple of weeks previously], I met a lot of the people in the stands and got a good understanding of what they're about. They are a passionate bunch, and it really shows.
"There's a huge Wasps following in the Midlands already, and I hear that it's only going to grow and improve. We're in a really good position."Rehoming and healing Saturday saw Dai Young's charges supplement their Exeter victory with more success against Leicester Tigers. A 34-22 triumph was the club's first win at Welford Road since 2008. Financial riches and an all-singing stadium are well and good, but these are the milestones that truly hearten players, supporters and management.
Today, Beale moves out of the Ricoh Arena hotel room in which he has been staying and into his house on the outskirts of picturesque Leamington Spa. In just over a fortnight, his partner Maddi Blomberg arrives from Sydney. He is personally and professionally committed to life in England, something that is reinforced on hearing about his current routine.
Sprinting forward to contest a high ball during the Waratahs' Super Rugby encounter with the Bulls in May – barely 24 hours after Wasps announced the acquisition – Beale tore his patella tendon clean off the bone. Initial prognosis suggested a lay-off of up to six months following immediate surgery. At the moment, while colleagues charge around outside, that means simple strength and flexibility drills."It's a tough grind but I know there's light at the end of the tunnel and that I'll get through," Beale continues.
"There's a really good set-up where we train at Broadstreet Rugby [in Coventry]. Everything's there – meeting rooms, physio rooms, the gym, playing fields, a kitchen where we get breakfast every morning."Everyone will be in at around 8.30am, getting breakfast together. Then the boys are off doing their training, I'm off to do my individual programme. We'll come back to have lunch together and then there's an afternoon session."You're in there from maybe 8am until 3.30, 4pm. I try to get in and around the guys to keep busy, as well as doing the things that need to be done.
There's no set [return] date at the moment, it's been a day-to-day process. I'm working hard to rebuild the muscle as it's deteriorated over the past three months."
Friends in tough places however mind-numbing and monotonous the road to recovery gets, perspective is unlikely to desert Beale. The plight of Brumbies playmaker and Wallaby peer Christian Lealiifano, currently fighting leukemia, will ensure that. On one of his early visits to Broadstreet in mid-August, Beale enlisted number eight Nathan Hughes as barber-in-chief and rounded up a few Wasps for a hair-shaving session in a gesture of solidarity. While the buzz-cuts grow out, the sentiment lingers."Christian and I go back a long, long time," Beale says. "We were on a tour over here with Australian Schoolboys in 2005.
There's a long relationship there and I guess a lot of our meetings have been on the footy pitch, either playing together or playing against each other."We've been in a lot of battles, from when we were growing up through to when I was at the Waratahs and he at the Brumbies. He's just a great guy with a great soul. To see something like this happen to him is devastating because he's one of the most down-to-earth blokes."It's knocked a lot of us around, but for us over here to show support from the other side of the world while he's going through this is very important. Hopefully, in some way, it makes it easier for him to get through. It's the thought that matters, in the end."
Still just 27, Beale has won 60 caps over a career that has undulated drastically. Behavourial issues and struggles with alcohol have ensured pretty low troughs, but he is determined to develop a great deal during this stint overseas.
Beale recently retweeted a quote from American actor Terry Crews, proclaiming that "looking cool is the easiest way to mediocrity". That encapsulates his desire to exit the comfort zone and develop an already prodigious inventory of skills."This is a new challenge for me, and on a rugby side of things it's a great opportunity to take my rugby to the next level, to really grow and understand the game up here [in the northern hemisphere]."
I want to be consistent week in, week out on the pitch. And, as well as that, I want to be helping the young guys in the squad. If I can rub off on them or influence them in a positive way, I'd be a very, very happy man."
At the Waratahs when I was growing up, there was Lote Tuqiri and Phil Waugh. Those were the main two people I looked up to. They were so professional in the way they went about things and ended up being the most reliable players out on the footy pitch. That consistency is underestimated, but that's what gets you to world-class status."Adding to the arsenal at his peak, Beale is among the most potent attackers on the planet. Pace, explosive footwork, an inventive mind, clear communication and a fine passing game make him a menace for midfield defences. His displays throughout the Waratahs' victorious Super Rugby campaign in 2014, and the manner in which he set up Bernard Foley's second try at Twickenham in England's 2015 World Cup loss, illustrate Beale's abilities in midfield.
If you have never seen his highlight reel from St Joseph's College in Sydney, a five-minute collection of clips that has gathered close to 312,000 YouTube hits, do yourself a favour right now. It is a truly breathtaking watch. Beale broaches this subject with polite weariness – "I am aware of the video, yes" – but does see his teenage years as the source of his rugby philosophy
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