Queensland flanker Angus Scott-Young, one third of the Reds’ dominant back row in Super Rugby this year, wasn’t wanted by Dave Rennie.
But instead of sulking on the snub, Scott-Young used it as a catalyst for growth.
He linked up with former Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson at Bay of Plenty in July after Gibson cheekily sold Tauranga as “the Coogee of New Zealand” and set about testing himself in the country’s revered provincial championship, the NPC.
“It hurts (missing a Test call up). I’ve played a lot of games for the Reds and I’m a really proud Queenslander and I would love to represent my country because it’s the epitome of what you can achieve,” he told the Herald.
“That’s why I made the decision, after missing out, to be proactive, to not dwell on it. I wanted to come down there, learn what I could from the best rugby system in the world and hopefully some day in the future that call does come.”
The move took some concerted lobbying of the Queensland Rugby Union board, including a heartfelt written plea, to allay fears the move would open the floodgates and weaken Brisbane’s club competition. Crucially, Scott-Young had the blessing of Reds coach Brad Thorn and his club University of Queensland.
“People here like tough people and Angus fit that bill clearly … he’s bloodied and bruised for us at the end of every game.”Bay of Plenty coach Daryl Gibson
Last week, he returned to Australia with his head held high and a Bay of Plenty Warrior of the Year award in his suitcase.
“It (the award) epitomises Angus because he plays the game tough and he’s come to a region in New Zealand that’s renowned for toughness,” Gibson said.
“It’s a tough region, people here like tough people and Angus has fit that bill clearly. He’s played every minute for us and he’s always bloodied and bruised for us at the end of every game. We could not have asked for more.”
It’s high praise for an Australian player in New Zealand. Scott-Young admits he was nervous heading over but was quickly put at ease by his team mates.
“When I first rocked up to Blake Park, I was really nervous, I wasn’t sure if they’d take in an Aussie,” he said.
“But within the first day I felt welcomed, not just by the rugby team but because the sense of community here is really strong. They invite you over for dinner, they look after you.”
The 24-year-old moved in with team mates Aidan Ross and Kaleb Trask, two Chiefs players whose paths he’d crossed as fierce opponents in Super Rugby.
“We (the Reds) beat them up in Townsville this year and you grow up seeing them as the enemy but they’re actually awesome blokes and now they’re friendships that I cherish.”
There were tough times. Scott-Young injured his shoulder and knee within a week of arriving and had to navigate an extended lockdown in a foreign country. Then, last month, the Steamers were rocked by the death of Sean Wainui, the Chiefs and Maori All Blacks winger who had joined Bay of Plenty ahead of the 2021 NPC season.
Scott-Young watched as the nation mourned Wainui’s passing and his teammates grappled with the tragic news. After talking with Bay of Plenty’s talismanic halfback Te Toiroa ‘Triple T’ Tahuriorangi, the Australian joined the other players in a haka performed in Wainui’s honour.
The highlights included training with Sam Cane as the All Blacks captain recovered from a torn pectoral muscle. The season also gave Scott-Young the opportunity to recast himself as a ball carrier and work on his pilfering.
Now back home, Scott-Young wants to bring all he’s learned to Ballymore and help the Reds storm Super Rugby Pacific in 2022.
“Thorny has been checking in regularly,” he revealed. “He was 25 when he came to New Zealand and played with Canterbury to launch his time in rugby. He said it was the best thing he could have done with his rugby and was one of the most important periods in his career. I’m pretty keen to bring everything back to Thorny and the Reds and see what we can achieve.”