Reds fans have been waiting for Mac Grealy’s debut with bated breath and they finally got to see the young star in action on Friday.
They’re the 11 words that helped Mac Grealy make a flawless debut for the Queensland Reds and stamp himself as a Super Rugby star of the future.
Reds fullback Bryce Hegarty’s match-day withdrawal with a hamstring injury forced coach Brad Thorn to make an emergency call to the highly-rated Grealy just hours ahead of Queensland’s clash with the competition-leading Blues at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night, telling the teen he was set to make his Super Rugby debut.
Grealy was watching basketball with mates when he received the call and was stunned into silence when Thorn told him he was not only being called into the squad but would run on at fullback in place of the 100-gamer.
With James O’Connor already ruled out of the match with a shoulder injury, Grealy could be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed.
But Thorn’s reassurance that he had great belief in the former schoolboy star whose fancy footwork and poise under pressure has earnt him comparisons to Wallabies great Tim Horan was followed by the words that allowed Grealy to play with fearless freedom.
“I don’t need you to be anyone else, you be you,” Thorn said.
Thorn framed his pre-match team talk around Grealy’s debut and the privilege of wearing the Queensland jersey.
“He was choking up. He said, it’s been 15 years of dreaming to wear that jersey,” Thorn said.
“He’s worked hard last year and into this year. There were a lot of people in front of him and he gets this opportunity and came in composed, it was probably good that he didn’t have a week to think about it.
“He went out there and he mixed it. He took high balls, he made tackles, kicked, ran, it was a really good night for him and one that he will always remember.
“It was sweet what it meant to him and something I shared with the guys before the game.
“We’re out of finals contention but it means a lot to us to represent the state and that jersey.”
With Queensland heading to New Zealand on Wednesday ahead of Friday night’s final Super Rugby Trans-Tasman fixture against the Hurricanes in Wellington, Grealy could get another chance to line up for the Reds.
“He fronted and didn’t put a foot wrong. He’s a fullback – he can play on the wing but he’s a fullback, so we’ll see where Bryce is,” Thorn said of Grealy’s chances of playing again.
“You’ve seen with me that I back guys, I’m not worried about age, I’ve said that the whole time and I’ve always brought the guys through.”
The former Downlands College student has long been a highly touted talent, coached by former Wallabies forward Garrick Morgan and with a schoolboy showreel packed with highlights.
But Thorn said it was Grealy’s work ethic that had helped him win a start against the Blues.
“He works his butt off, he really works hard on his game,” he said.
“I wouldn’t have said he’s a natural high-ball guy because you don’t get a lot of that at school but you saw him, he was flawless.
“First one, boom, he attacked it in the air. He’s a talented guy but there’s a few talented guys around.
“He just took that opportunity – you prepare for it the best you can and he took it. It was a great night for him and it might give us some thoughts for us next week.”
Grealy’s age being highlighted shows just how far the Reds have come since Thorn took over at the club.
“Three years ago there were a whole lot of 19-year-olds and he would have had some company,” he said.
“It’s pretty cool now that it’s a bit rare – it (used to be) half the team.”