Kurtley Beale has repaid Australian rugby’s faith in him in spades, according to vice-captain Michael Hooper who said the enigmatic star would “die for the jersey”.
Beale was arguably Australia’s best in Sunday (AEDT) morning’s 34-17 loss to back-to-back World Cup champions New Zealand, sparking a second-half rally to drag the Wallabies within four points.
It continued an outstanding tournament for the oft-troubled Beale and confirmed his place as one of the Wallabies’ most influential players – even if he couldn’t dislodge Israel Folau from the starting fullback role.
Hooper said Beale was an asset to the Wallabies on and off the field, a compliment he couldn’t have been paid prior to Michael Cheika taking over the coaching role 12 months ago.
It was Beale who was at the centre of Ewen McKenzie’s demise, causing a major rift between players and team management for his role in the Di Patston saga.
On last year’s disastrous Rugby Championship tour of Argentina, in which the Wallabies lost in Mendoza, Beale was in the spotlight for sending lewd text messages to Patston, the team’s business manager, while an in-flight argument between the two added fuel to the fire.
Beale was given a $45,000 fine and within a month Patston and McKenzie had stepped down from their positions.
Cheika has managed to harness the 26-year-old’s talents brilliantly, with Beale starring off the bench throughout the World Cup.
“He’s spilt blood, he’s won games and he’ll die for the jersey that he wears,” Hooper said.
“And I hope that shows through and I hope people recognise that because we certainly do and I can’t express the amount that he brings to this group and the amount that we owe him for what he gives to us.
“So I love the bloke and he deserves every accolade that he gets and I hope people see that because he’s a great person.
“Kurtley has had an outstanding tournament. Every opportunity he’s got, he’s done fantastically.
“The amount that he adds off the field, first of all, is awesome and then this tournament in particular, how he’s come on in tough positions in the game and made differences.”
Cheika was equally proud of Beale’s contribution.
“His consistency every day has been excellent and it’s been difficult for him in that he hasn’t been selected to start,” he said.
“He’s that quality of player and I had a job I wanted him to do and, even though it hurt him, (he) took that and did it with full vigour and to the best of his ability.
“He’s a good man, you know, he’s grown up, and I think it’s just the start for him. I really do.
“I think he’s got so much improvement in him and he’s going to be a massive contributor to Australian rugby going forward.”