NSW Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson is tipping Reece Robinson to light up Suncorp Stadium as the former NRL flyer tries to contain his excitement ahead of his Super Rugby debut on Sunday.
After a month cooling his heels on the bench, the Waratahs’ prized off-season signing will be unleashed on the embattled Queensland Reds in a must-win conference derby in Brisbane.
“I don’t want to get pumped up too early,” Robinson said after being named to replace Matt Carraro as the Waratahs bid to extend their five-match winning streak over the Reds to stay in touch with Australia’s conference pacesetters the Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels.
“Hopefully I just do my job.”
And that job is to score tries.
A former Randwick junior and product of the same Matraville High School that unearthed the Ella brothers and fellow former Wallabies attacking great Russell Fairfax, Robinson has taken the long route back to rugby.
The 28-year-old spent nine seasons in rugby league, starting at Brisbane, finishing at Parramatta and with stints with North Sydney and Canberra in between.
But no matter where he went or where he played, the journeyman scored tries – amassing four-pointers in the NRL at a strike rate better than one every two games.
“We’ve seen just how exciting he can be with the ball in hand,” said Gibson, who dubbed Robinson “one of our quickest”.
“If we can give him any opportunity where he can finish – some time, some space – I think we’ll see that and that’s the reason we recruited him.
“We saw last time when he came on (against the Highlanders) that he’s very capable and we’ve got enormous faith in him.”
Robinson is promising to reward Gibson for that faith.
“If I get the ball in that situation, that’s it – finish,” he said, relishing the opportunity to run off Wallabies superstars Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau for the first time in Super Rugby.
“Definitely looking forward to it … I’m very excited for that.”
Robinson bagged memorable hat-tricks for Lebanon in a European Cup trouncing of Italy in 2009 and for the Indigenous All Stars against the NRL All Stars in 2013.
But he never reached State of Origin level in league and rates taking on the Reds for the Waratahs at Suncorp as the next best thing, easily the biggest match of his rugby career.
“It’s an awesome ground. Coming from rugby league, you always got big crowds there,” said the relative of sporting ace Anthony Mundine and former NRL tryscoring king Nathan Merritt.
“It’s probably the biggest game I’ve played in (in rugby).
“Rugby league: the NRL All Stars, that was a massive game for me.”
Skipper Michael Hooper acknowledges it’s a massive game for the Waratahs too.
“We’re one win and two losses,” Hooper said.
“It feels like the season’s been going forever. We need to get a win on the board.”