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Fiji trip no vacation for Dewet Roos

Article by Pete Fairbairn. Originally published on RUPA Website.

They say that lightning never strikes twice, however that certainly doesn’t apply to scrumhalf Dewet Roos when it comes to getting great news when he’s on holiday!

Just two years after being offered a contract by then-Brumbies Head Coach Stephen Larkham whilst on holiday in South Africa, Roos received his maiden Classic Wallabies call-up this month while on a long weekend with his family in Fiji.

“I travelled to the Shangri-La down on the Coral Coast in Fiji for my sister’s surprise 30th birthday celebrations with the rest of my family, and on my first night there I was walking back to my room from dinner when I ran into Rob Horne who had travelled across with the Classic Wallabies,” Roos explained to RUPA.

“We’ve known each and been good mates for a long time, playing school footy together for Sydney East back in 2005 and then also together a lot at Southern Districts, and we’ve always kept in contact over the years so it was a great surprise!

“We were catching up and having a good chat, and then he froze a little bit and asked if I would be keen to play the next day, because the team was a little bit short! I explained that I didn’t have any Rugby boots or gear, but he said to leave it with him and then he messaged me twenty minutes later to say I was in and that the boys wanted me to play. I didn’t have to think twice to jump into the opportunity, so it was up early the next morning for the three-hour bus trip to Suva.

“Once we got to the city we stopped off so that Samu Kerevi could take me into a sports shop and I could grab a pair of boots! When we got out of the bus, everybody was just in awe of guys like Radike Samo and Lote Tuqiri, and then shortly afterwards I was sitting in the dressing sheds preparing to play next to Lote, and I realised I was playing with a fair few of the greats!”

The game itself, which saw a Classic Wallabies side led by Stephen Moore play the Fijian Legends in Rugby Sevens, was a curtain raiser for the Round One National Rugby Championship (NRC) clash between the Fijian Drua and Melbourne Rising and took place in front of thousands of vocal locals.

“It was a pretty interesting game; (Fijian Legend) William Ryder set the tone right from the kick-off when he re-gathered his own kick and skinned a few blokes, leaving me defending three, for them to score almost immediately!” Roos said.

“He’s definitely still got it, and in general their team seemed to be still be able to step and run the way that they did when they were 21 years old. I reckon William Ryder could still play on the World Rugby Sevens Series now, he was the definite standout! Their support play and offload play was unbelievable. I played the full 24 minutes, every time I seemed to want to come off one of the other boys would put their hand up and say that they needed the rest more than me, and being the youngest I had to cop that! We didn’t manage to put up a huge amount of fight, but it was great fun and a huge honour to wear the Gold jersey.”

Whilst Roos’ late addition to the squad meant that he wasn’t able to partake in some of the clinics and visits undertaken by the Classic Wallabies during their time in Fiji, spending time among the squad and hearing about their trip was enough to illustrate the benefits of running the program.

“I can definitely see massive value in what the Classic Wallabies do,” Roos told RUPA. “I think it’s an awesome concept, and it’s great for past players to be able to help the current guys in promoting the game. They get around to some great places and teach heaps of kids what Rugby is about in Australia, and giving back to the sport in different communities around the world. It’s also a good way for blokes who aren’t playing professionally anymore to stay involved, go on tour, and still enjoy that camaraderie.

“Once you’re out of a team, it can be quite a hard thing to stay involved with all your mates, so it’s great that the Classic Wallabies get guys back touring together and help to find that feeling again. The guys involve also know that they can look after each other, and it’s powerful to know that you’ve still got teammates who care about you and are there to talk to if something is wrong.”

Roos is in a unique position of playing for the Classic Wallabies while still very much interested in taking advantage of any professional opportunities which may come his way. 28-years-old, Roos is very much in the prime of his Rugby development and has recently returned from a serious injury after progressing through the pathways to earn a Super Rugby contract for the first time in 2016 – again, while on holidays!

“I had a pretty good NRC season in 2016 and I was selected in the Australian Barbarians team that went and played a trial match against the Brumbies in their pre-season. We copped an absolute flogging but Stephen Larkham saw me play and got a bit of an idea about me and the kind of player I am. Two weeks later, (former Brumbies scrumhalf, Argentinian international) Tomas Cubelli went down with a ruptured patella tendon.

“I was back in South Africa (where Roos was born) on holiday when I got a phone call saying that the Brumbies wanted me to come down to Canberra and be part of the squad. I flew back that Sunday, I moved to Canberra on Monday to start training and then less than two weeks later I made my Super Rugby debut in Christchurch on a Friday night. It all happened very quickly, but I grabbed it with both hands and I loved every part of my year down there.

“I felt like I fitted right in, it was just another game of Rugby though admittedly a lot more physical and tactical, but I felt I belonged out there and I managed the step up to Super Rugby quite well. The training load was really challenging and the biggest adjustment, but it was all good once I got my first couple of weeks done and acclimatised with it.

“I linked up well with Joe Powell and Ryan Lonergan, who are both awesome young scrumhalves. I would have loved to have gotten a bit more time and maybe a start (all 10 of Roos’ appearances were as a replacement), because when you come on towards the end of a game you can’t always show your full hand of cards, but I am so thankful for the opportunity I got and I really cherish it.”

When his contract expired at the end of the 2017 Super Rugby season, it was an uncertain time for Roos. The axing of the Western Force created a bottleneck of players within Australia, especially in specialist positions, with all players from the Perth-based team seeing their contracts honoured as they moved interstate to take up deals elsewhere. Looking to head overseas for a second time, after spending a year in France with Narbonne five years prior, heartbreak instead struck for Roos.

“I finished up with the Brumbies at the end of Super Rugby and came back to Sydney to play Shute Shield, and then did my knee in the week leading up to the finals – the timing was so unfortunate. At the time, I was still chatting to the Brumbies about potentially heading back down there and being involved in their program, and I also had some interest from overseas, but a twelve-month injury put a stop to that.

“I’ve always felt that you just have to take your Rugby as it comes so I took it on the chin, and it was good to get back to Southern Districts and play some Shute Shield Rugby this year in the later stages of the season. From a timing point of view, I had a bit of bad luck again as they’ve moved to just two NSW-based NRC teams, which didn’t really help me, so I’m not playing NRC this year.

“I’m very open-minded about the future. For me, I just love playing Rugby and at Southern Districts I am fortunate enough to play for a Club whose colours I live and breathe, and I just want to get back and play at a high standard for them.

“The competitive side of me is always going to be there and I’d love to get a full-time gig in Super Rugby or head back overseas, especially after having such a great time at Narbonne playing for Coaches Justin Harrison and Chris Whittaker, and alongside guys like Josh Valentine, Shaun Foley, Julian Huxley and Jono Jenkins.

“I had a great time there experiencing a different culture and I’d love to use Rugby as the platform to do that again if the opportunity came up, but I am also very happy with my career and happy to take things as they come.”

Away from Rugby, Roos works as Project Development Manager at Ambient Constructions, rising through the ranks since starting with them as a labourer five years ago.

“Ambient are a wonderful company, who have supported my growth and always had a great understanding of my Rugby commitments and ambitions,” Roos said. “When I moved down to Canberra to join the Brumbies, they let me keep my company car and I was still working 10-12 hours a week remotely for them.

“We build residential homes and do alterations and additions, dabbling a bit more in the architectural side of things. I look after all the new builds and project developments when clients want to develop a block; I finished my Construction Management degree at University of Western Sydney in 2015, and I’ve been very fortunate to work with them over the last few years.”

Back to Rugby, and you can’t help but think that there must surely be a few more twists and turns to come for Dewet Roos – though hopefully more good phone calls on holidays than cases of bad timing!

One thing you know he’d love to be a part of is a maiden Shute Shield Premiership for his beloved Souths, where’s he played alongside the likes of Wallabies Horne, Lopeti and Sitaleki Timani, Tetera Faulkner, Nic Henderson, Nick Cummins and more; and who knows, 2019 could be the year!

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