Perese grateful for bumpy journey to cusp of Wallabies debut
NSW centre Izaia Perese says he is grateful to Australian rugby for giving him a second chance after a drugs charge brought the curtains down on a promising career in the NRL two years ago.
Perese flew out for Japan with the Wallabies on Wednesday for a four Test spring tour, searching for a maiden Test appearance to cap a triumphant return to rugby.
Izaia Perese is chasing a maiden Test cap after a ‘second chance’ in rugby. Credit:Getty
The 24-year-old credited a season at the Broncos in 2019 with curing him of an “attitude problem” but admitted it was not until he had his contract torn up over a drugs charge, then hit rock bottom during a difficult spell in French rugby last year, that he learned not to take anything for granted.
“I think the switch to rugby league was part of the journey I was supposed to take,” Perese said.
“It really taught me to start from the bottom again. I didn’t know it at the time but looking back I felt like I had a bit of an attitude problem, where I was exposed to the Wallabies environment at an early age, so I felt like things came a little easy to me.
“Going to the Broncos, getting absolutely pumped in the pre-season, starting from the bottom again, spending a whole year in [Queensland] Cup, it taught me a valuable lesson that footy isn’t life. I felt like I was just watching and learning.
“Obviously I mucked up a bit in the past and it just led me back into rugby union. I’m pretty grateful that Australian rugby and the Waratahs gave me a second chance.”
Perese’s damaging midfield form was a bright spot in a dismal 2021 season for NSW but a serious shoulder injury scotched hopes he could translate that onto the Test stage at the start of the international season.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie kept in close contact with the young centre, who made spring tour selection his rehab goal. There is doubt over whether he will be available in time for the Test against Japan on October 23 but Perese said he would “definitely” be putting his hand up to play Scotland on November 8.
There was no discussion between coach and player over which position he could be asked to play. Samu Kerevi’s availability is still under a cloud for the Japan Test, Len Ikitau and Hunter Paisami have incumbency on their sides.
“It’s quite funny how I’m back here now,” Perese said. “Before I was real young, I was pretty uptight about making the team and stuff like that. Now, the journey I’ve been through … it’s made me appreciate my mates, it’s made me appreciate everything I have. It’s definitely going to be a wonderful tour.”
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