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By NSW Waratahs Media unit
Should Ryan McCauley make it onto the field in the NSW Waratahs vs Jaguares match on Saturday night, he will be the 1645th player to wear the sky blue jersey of the state.
And having only just turned 20 in June, he will definitely be the youngest player in the Waratahs match day squad of 23.
Head Coach Daryl Gibson says the experience for Ryan of being on the bench for Saturday’s match just adds to his development as a player.
“Ryan has been with the Waratahs for two years now and having those experiences with the Australian Under 20’s, the junior world cup and now he has an opportunity this week with the Tahs and I’m really excited for him,” Gibson said.
“It also shows the evolution from our pathway, he’s someone we picked up at school and he has come through our system.”
The young lock grew playing rugby league in Sydney’s east before discovering rugby union at the age of 15 and going on to play for the Coogee Seahorses at Randwick.
“I played a little representative football that year and I ended up moving to Scots College from Matraville Sports High,” Ryan said.
“I was quite tall when I was a younger and so I just had a couple of games of rugby and being tall I was quite suited to playing union. So I thought it would be smarter to move and I fell in love with the game. It just had so many more dimensions to it than league and I really enjoyed playing it.”
The game may have changed from league to rugby union but Ryan’s position didn’t, he was a second rower in both codes.
Now the 20-year-old has the chance to play for NSW in a Super Rugby match which he says has been a goal of his for years. But he almost missed the moment he was named in the Waratahs squad.
“I was sitting in the team room and then the bench was named and I sort of zoned out after number 19 was named as obviously that’s the lock spot. And then I just heard this clapping and “debutant” and I was like, ‘well that’s me’ so I was pretty overwhelmed. It’s a big honour to wear that jersey and I just want to do the state and team proud and do my job.”
With only five years’ experience in rugby, Ryan has been calling on everyone to help him understand the game and his position in the team.
“Everyone has helped me and there are a lot of good senior players here and I have tried to soak all that knowledge in over the last two years,” he said
“Dean Mumm has been great, he’s always had time for me, even someone like Ned Hanigan who was in my shoes a couple of years ago, he’s been really helpful with the little things – just telling me ‘you’ll be right’ just giving me that little bit of confidence that I’ll be able to take into the game.
“I always try and ask Dean to sit down and have a look through some footage and ask him some questions.
“It’s not too formal, sometimes I just get some clips together and ask him what would he have done there or what do you think I should have done better if you were in my shoes what would you be doing right now and that really helped me.”
McCauley moves from the extended playing squad to a full time contract next year and while looking ahead to a new season, is only concentrating on Saturday’s game.
“Obviously next year is a big step up and I’ve got to contribute a lot more next year, taking that step up in the squad.
“These last two games are really important but I’m just looking to this game, trying to get on the field if I can and just doing my job this weekend and every week as it comes.”
And all the time the former NSW and Australian Under 20 player knows he has so much more to learn.
“It’s just the experience of being around the professional environment and seeing how game day works and how the professionals train every day.”
McCauley will be on the bench in jersey number 20 on Saturday night for the match against the Jaguares, starting at 7:40pm.
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The NSW Waratah’s will open their 2018 Super Rugby season with a home match against the Stormers at Allianz Stadium on the 24th of February.
SANZAAR has released the Super Rugby draw for 2018 with the Waratahs scheduled to play eight games at home.