Australia v British & Irish Lions, Brisbane, June 22
Ben Mowen shows benefit of hard work
June 21, 2013
Ben Mowen is a team man who prioritises the hard yakka © Getty Images
Stephen Larkham has played under some of the greatest captains in recent Australian rugby history: John Eales, George Gregan, Stirling Mortlock, to name but a few. Yet the Wallabies legend says Ben Mowen is one of the best leaders he's ever seen. "He's a great motivator, leads by example, speaks well, understands the game plan and works really hard off the field in doing his homework," Larkham, an assistant coach at the Brumbies, says of Mowen.
Mowen, 28, has taken a twisting road to his Wallabies debut against the British & Irish Lions at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday: he was unwanted by his home franchise, Queensland Reds, then New South Wales Waratahs discarded him for Rocky Elsom after just three seasons; fortunately, while considering overseas options, Rugby World Cup-winning coach Jake White offered a contract and the Brumbies captaincy.
"[White] had a vision when he came here, wanted to change the culture somewhat," Larkham said. "That was a difficult decision. I remember going through the process with Jake." Yet Larkham admits he had doubts about Mowen when the backrower arrived at the end of 2011. "But from day one he's shown tremendous intensity both on and off the field," the 102-Test fly-half said. "He certainly has surprised me."
Larkham says Mowen has been instrumental in dragging the Brumbies from 13th place in Super Rugby in 2011, to all but securing the Australian conference in 2013. But many would have thought the Brumbies were getting a dud deal when Elsom and Mowen swapped clubs at the end of 2011.
"They're totally different players," Larkham said. "Rocky when he was with the Brumbies was not a very good team player. He didn't involve himself in the team aspect nearly as well as he should have. Ben Mowen is quite the opposite. Everything is about the team. He sacrifices a lot. So in that respect they're chalk and cheese."
Mowen says it's funny how it's all panned out, and there were times when he questioned whether he'd ever make the national side. "I had a good meeting with Robbie [Deans] at the end of the June series last year," Mowen said. "He said he wanted to see some good improvements with my impact in the tackle and was looking for backrowers who could play on the ball. So I worked really hard with [Brumbies forwards coach] Laurie Fisher during the off-season just through leg power and carry, and improved my breakdown work."
Mowen said the chance to make his Test debut in his home town justified his decision to turn down lucrative overseas offers to pursue his Wallabies dream.
"I feel extremely fortunate to be here and to be making my debut in my home town in front of my family and friends, it's just a massive reward," Mowen said. "Throughout my career year on year, I've just chased improvement and this is where I always wanted to be. There's certain times that you question whether you get there or not but I'm very fortunate that I've got a very good support network around me that pushed me to stay in Australia and keep pursuing this."
Stephen Larkham, George Gregan, Jeremy Paul and Joe Roff preview the series for ESPNscrum
© AAP with Sportal