Student graduates from university to Tahs

GEORGINA ROBINSON
Last updated 09:06 18/09/2012

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Ollie Atkins could be forgiven for thinking he drew the short straw as he sat clutching his cheek in the emergency room at Concord Hospital while his Sydney University teammates celebrated victory in the Shute Shield.

The second-rower copped friendly fire from teammate Liam Winton in Saturday's grand final thriller against Southern Districts, and missed the team's victory party to receive treatment for a fractured eye socket.

But Atkins, 24, had plenty of reasons to grin and bear the pain.

With the Waratahs today expected to announce the appointment of Michael Cheika as head coach on a three-year deal, the province yesterday confirmed that Atkins had secured one of the two remaining regular squad spots on its roster for next year.

''It's all come pretty thick and fast, and I absolutely can't wait. It's all pretty exciting and fresh at the moment,'' Atkins said.

He should be used to things happening thick and fast. After being called into the Western Force on a short-term contract towards the end of last season, Atkins was told with less than four hours to spare that he would be starting against the Blues in place of the injured Nathan Sharpe.

He played his second game for the province against the Crusaders but went back to full-time work and was preparing for the Shute Shield finals when the Waratahs came knocking.

''I spoke with [Waratahs defence coach] Greg Mumm, and he just informed me they were looking at myself and a couple of other guys ... but I didn't for one second think it was a foregone conclusion or anything like that,'' Atkins said.

Mumm and the other assistants were looking for a fourth second-row after the departures of Wallabies Dan Vickerman and Dean Mumm.

''Ollie's stand-out feature is his work rate and the impact he has around the ground,'' assistant coach Scott Bowen said.

''He's a reasonable ball carrier, he hits a lot of breakdowns, makes his tackles and is pretty effective with his scrummaging and lineout work.''

Atkins joins Uni teammate Michael Hodge, Wallabies breakaway Michael Hooper and former Brumbies fullback Cam Crawford as one of four new faces in the Waratahs squad for next year. The province has until December to secure its 30th full-time squad member, and starts negotiations tomorrow on the make-up of its five-man extended playing squad.

High on its wishlist are understood to be Australian Sevens halfback Matt Lucas, Southern Districts fullback Ben Volavola, Southern Districts second-rower Jed Holloway, Reds five-eighth Sam Lane and Melbourne Rebels hooker Luke Holmes.

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- Sydney Morning Herald

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