Kiwi Grayson Hart gets Waratahs No 9 start

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 19:46 03/07/2012
Grayson Hart
ANTHONY JOHNSON/Sydney Morning Herald
STARTING UP: Grayson Hart, nephew of former All Blacks coach John Hart and a member of the 2008 New Zealand under-20 team, will start at halfback for the Waratahs against the Brumbies.

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After watching Aaron Smith and Ben Youngs light up the test rugby arena last month, the promising junior who kept them on their toes during the 2008 junior world championships is simply relieved to be promoted from the Sydney club competition.

Grayson Hart denies he was envious as Smith starred in his first series as an All Black against Ireland and Youngs, his English rival when New Zealand won the final of the inaugural under-20s tournament, enhanced his reputation in South Africa.

Yet there is clearly regret that his career did not quite track in the same direction once he became the Blues youngest ever halfback in 2009.

Hart has had to wait three years to add to his seven Super Rugby appearances but the opening finally presents itself when the struggling Waratahs host the Australian conference-leading Brumbies on Saturday night.

"I didn't make the most of my opportunities last time, possibly things might have come pretty quickly and I didn't realise how lucky I was to be playing Super Rugby," reflected Hart, who will run on to ANZ Stadium.

"After a long lay-off I'm really excited to get another opportunity. I've been working hard to make the most of it."

Hart, now 24, was the Baby Blacks first choice No 9 in Wales four years ago and Smith added impact off the bench; this year the quick developer - and passer - from Manawatu has established himself as New Zealand's leading halfback while his former superior has bided his time with Southern Districts.

"I'm glad to see Aaron's come a long way," Hart insisted.

"It's good for me to see someone I played with in a team like that to be doing so well."

Hart made his debut against the Bulls at Eden Park in round two of the penultimate Super 14; the two-point loss to the Crusaders in the final round then signalled the end of his Super Rugby career in New Zealand as the Blues recruited Alby Mathewson from the Hurricanes to share the halfback duties with Chris Smylie in 2010.

He was relegated to the wider training squad and then, on the advice of his uncle John, the former All Blacks coach, he headed to Sydney last year where he qualified as a local player thanks to an Australian-born grandmother.

The Waratahs were impressed when he arrived but Hart lost ground when he was injured following a trial match. He recovered to be contracted for this season but had to settle for the third choice halfback role behind South African marquee import Sarel Pretorius and Brendan McKibbin - whose status was enhanced by his goal kicking prowess.

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So when he hasn't been playing in the Shute Shield Hart has been spending hours practicing with the Waratahs in the shadow backline, making up the numbers at opposed training drills.

He finally got an inkling a debut might be looming when he started getting more time behind the pack during the international window. Pretorius and McKibbin were not absent on test duty so it was a promising sign.

Ominously Hart hurt his left hand when he was tackled against Eastwood last weekend but fortunately the knock won't prevent him ending an agonising wait.

"There were times when I was thinking all this training I'm putting in, I'm giving 100 per cent, when's my time going to come? Is all this effort going to pay off?" he admitted.

"There were times I thought 'Is it worth it' but I stuck at it and those moments didn't last long."

Family support boosted him through those down times and naturally his uncle was prominent.

"He's had a huge influence, he's the one I always go to for advice,"said Hart, who was toying with a change of scene in Europe.

"He's always been of the view that I should stay and try and have another go at Super Rugby."

NSW Waratahs: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Lachie Turner, Rob Horne, Berrick Barnes, Drew Mitchell, Bernard Foley, Grayson Hart, Wycliff Palu, Chris Alcock, Dave Dennis, Kane Douglas, Dean Mumm, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson (captain). Reserves: Josh Mann-Rae, Paddy Ryan, Sitaleki Timani, Lopeti Timani, Brendan McKibbin, Tom Carter, Tom Kingston.

- Fairfax Media

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