By Georgina Robinson, Sydney Morning Herald
Waratahs flanker Jack Dempsey has an Australian jersey in his sights but says he wants to “own” the NSW No.6 jersey first.
Dempsey and teammate Andrew Kellaway claimed two of four coveted development spots on the Wallabies spring tour to Europe last year and started in the No.7 jersey for the Wallaby XV’s mid-week match against a French Barbarians lineup in Bordeaux.
NSW flanker Jack Dempsey was taken to Europe with the Wallabies as a development player last year. Photo: Ian MacNicol
Training and playing among Australia’s best has the 22-year-old raring to make his own mark at NSW.
“The Australian jersey is definitely a goal of mine in the short term … that’s not something I’m ashamed to admit,” Dempsey said. “But in terms of the blue jersey I’m looking to own that No.6 jersey, that’s what my goal has been from day one.”
The Gordon product was on Michael Cheika’s radar from early on when the now-Wallabies coach recruited the tough young player to the Waratahs. Dempsey spent a season plying his trade behind backrow hard men Jacques Potgieter and Wycliff Palu, and continued his apprenticeship under club leaders Dave Dennis and Michael Hooper last year.
A neck injury threatened to derail his campaign for more game time midway through the season, but Dempsey made it back for the Waratahs’ round 14 game against the Chiefs and put in a string of stand-out performances for the North Harbour Rays in the NRC to earn that fabled call from the Wallabies coach.
Now back with the boys in blue for the Super Rugby pre-season, Dempsey says he’s carried over important off-field lessons from his time in the big leagues.
“Watching guys like David Pocock, who I’d never met before, how he goes about his gym work and looks after his body … the little things he has to do to make sure he’s ticking [over] every week,” he said.
“For someone like me who’s 22, we don’t have too many issues in terms of our bodies but it’s something you have to get on top of early. I’ve still got a way to go, I’m not on Dave’s level yet, but we’ve sat down here with the [strength and conditioning] team here and we’re definitely going to adopt some things here that we learnt on the tour.”
There will be plenty of competition for starting spots in the backrow this season, with former Brumbies and Norths flanker Michael Wells keen to impress at his new club and Brad Wilkin back fit after battling a knee injury last year. The three have plenty of experience together from their Australian Schoolboys days and have forged a tight but competitive bond during the pre-season.
“There always is [competition] in the Waratahs, we’ve always had a strong back row core,” Dempsey said. “It’s something we’re proud of and something we push each other with, week in and week out. There’s no hard feelings.”
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