Tasman stint helped Betham show skills
The Waratahs' pre-season training started in mid-October but Peter Betham traces his preparation for this year's Super Rugby back to Tasman's upset of champions Canterbury in the opening round of the national provincial championship last August.
After his return to Sydney from the Melbourne Rebels amounted to only two caps in a backline brimming with Wallabies, the 24-year-old was desperate to play and followed in the footsteps of another Waratahs wing Peter Playford, who was an effective import for Tasman in 2006.
Betham has been accustomed to sitting on the sidelines or in the stands on game day since the former Australian under-19 representative joined the Brumbies in 2008.
He spent two seasons in Canberra without getting a run in the top side and although the Wellington-born utility played trials for NSW in 2010 he had to wait until last year's visit by the Crusaders to debut for his state.
Betham made his Super Rugby debut as a foundation member of the Melbourne Rebels in 2011, scoring once in eight games before heading home to join the Waratahs wider training squad where he languished until an injury crisis saw Michael Foley select him against the Crusaders and Brumbies.
Fortunately for Betham, Samoan World Cup halfback Jeremy Sua, a childhood friend and fellow churchgoer, offered salvation once he had signed with Tasman.
"I was pretty much looking to get over there (to New Zealand) and Jeremy said they had a spot. He said it was pretty good to be there."
Betham took his mate's advice and the experience exceeded his expectations.
"I went to get some match fitness up and also some game time. I was really keen to get involved and luckily it was with Tasman," he said after a training session in Sydney.
"It's kind of hard finding your place on the fringes of Super Rugby, Tasman gave me the opportunity pretty much to show my skills and what I have."
An automatic choice, the wing-fullback scored six tries and arrived back at the Waratahs upbeat after enjoying Tasman's desire to counter-attack.
"The most pleasing thing was being consistent throughout the tournament and being able to contribute to the team," Betham said after showcasing his speed, evasiveness and ability to offload.
Betham is keen to return to Nelson for another crack at the NPC and had he not already signed a one-year deal with the Waratahs he could have potentially remained in the South Island.
New Zealand franchises were interested in him, until learning he was tied to the Waratahs, and he might have appealed to the Crusaders given Sean Maitland's decision to pursue a test career with Scotland.
"There were a couple (of franchises) but as soon as they understood I was with the Waratahs things kind of went a bit sideways. I was pretty surprised they were interested."
It will also be a surprise if Betham, a fully contracted squad member, features prominently with the Waratahs this year considering the quality of outside backs at new head coach Michael Cheika's disposal.
Wallabies Drew Mitchell, Lachie Turner, Adam Ashley-Cooper . . . Bernard Foley, Tom Kingston and now Israel Folau are vying for starts in the back three.
So how did Betham feel when the former league star and Aussie Rules flop Folau rejected a return to the NRL?
"It does make it a bit harder but I'm taking it as a positive.
"It's a blessing because these Wallaby players benefit your game. If I'm on the bench or not in the (game-day squad) I'll still be learning. I always knew there was plenty of depth here."
The Nelson Mail