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OUA Dream XV: Justin Harrison

OUA Dream XV: Justin Harrison
OUA Dream XV: Justin Harrison

In the third instalment of our feature series, the Open Universities Australia (OUA) Dream XV, we caught up with our own CEO & Australian Wallaby number 770, Justin Harrison.

Harrison earned 34 Caps for the Wallabies (2001-2004) and is perhaps best remembered for his debut match, stealing a crucial defensive lineout in the 78th minute against the British & Irish Lions in 2001, which helped the Wallabies win the 3rd Test decider. He was also a member of the last Wallaby team to win on New Zealand soil (2001) and to win the Bledisloe Cup (2002). Justin had a reputation as a hard-nosed, combative lock forward.  He was a late starter to the game, playing his first game of rugby at the age of 19 when attending Southern Cross University in 1993 and playing for the SCU Gold Rats, quickly embarking on his Rugby journey by being selected in the Australian Under 21’s in 1995.  He moved to the Tuggeranong Vikings club in the Canberra competition in 1994, then becoming an inaugural member of the ACT Brumbies in 1996. He played in the Rugby World Cup in 2003 before moving to the NSW Waratahs in 2004 and playing for Eastwood Rugby Union Club in Sydney.

The premise of the Dream XV is extremely simple; we have asked Justin to name a fantasy starting side, in their appropriate positions, of players he would love to play alongside.

He can select players he was able to call teammates, players he has come up against, or even players he admired from afar as a Rugby fan, and he can pick them based on whatever criteria appeals to him. Justin has chosen to pick only Australian players he had played with or against based on being both on and off-field contributors.

Justin Harrison’s OUA Dream XV

1. Bill Young One of the hardest working players to pull on a Wallaby jersey. Achieved the most out of his playing ability that he possibly could. Against England in the 2003 Rugby World Cup he managed to fold himself in half like an ironing board. Amazing commitment to the team and a hard, honest player. Currently one of Australia’s best publicans but worst singers.

2. Jeremy Paul – One of the most versatile and skilful players who shaped the template for the way a modern hooker needs to play. He was the highest try-scoring forward and improved the looks of the forward pack, good spin bowler too.

3. Ewen McKenzie – A ball-playing prop who was hard to move out of first receiver and a novel approach to sports nutrition which consisted of hiding his dessert under a plate of salad whenever on tour. Impressively was able to bridge the amateur and professional eras and go on to coach the Wallabies. A powerful and valuable mentor of mine through my playing career as a teammate and coach.

4. Dan Vickerman – He was impressive. The quintessential big, physical and dominant type forward. None better at the fundamentals of lock forward play. A sharp sense of humour who took delight in economising his delivery of wit with pinpoint accuracy. Owen Finegan still cherishing Vick’s Secret Santa gift of knee pads...

5. David Giffin – A tactician. He cerebrally appreciated and attacked the game. The way he dissected an opposition lineout was the first time I understood how lineouts affected how teams attacked & how best to defend a team’s attack using the lineout. A master of karaoke too. Nathan Sharpe an unlucky omission in naming the two locks, they get him by a hair...

6. Matt Cockbain – In defence he cut people into 52-pieces with smaller shoulders than me. He was a hard-working Queenslander who was enormously proud to represent his country. Honest in looking at his own performance before looking at anyone else and held you to a high standard of performance. The first to bring an x-box on tour and tear us to shreds on nightly Halo sessions.

7. George Smith – Hands down the best human on the planet to play rugby. He couldn’t run out of sight in a fitness test but the most natural footballer I’ve come across. Curious approach to hairstyle but was forgiven with the genius he delivered inside an 80-minute performance. Good boxer.

8. Toutai Kefu – He was the Ronaldo of controlling the ball at the back of a scrum. A tough man. You always knew you were protected, and he had presence. We played Australian Under 21’s together and he gave me the confidence to back myself whenever I was on the field with him. Formidable opponent who took great delight in finding me in the defensive line and bending me every time.

9. George Gregan – You don’t fall into becoming the most capped Wallaby of all time by luck. The epitome of what the most complete professional Rugby player acts like. He could appreciate the personalities of the team to get them to the level he himself demonstrated, had the capacity to turn you to stone with a glacial death stare if you gave anything other than perfection on the field. You had to be prepared to push the cart out with your meal allowance whenever Greegs took you to one of his favourite dining places on tour.

10. Stephen Larkham – Just a freak. You could pick him in three positions in a Dream Team. In a game against Scotland playing as the Fullback he beat every player in the team, twice. He loved his chess and bringing Dungeons and Dragons role playing costumes on tour. Uncanny resemblance to a young Bill Gates dressed as Mr Bean.

11. Joe Roff – A gifted athlete and team member. He was the type of player you found yourself watching and wondering how he had just done what he did…and he did it all so nonchalantly. Gifted dancer. Importantly he could beat Bernie (Steve Larkham) at chess and a true wordsmith.

12. Matt Giteau – At his first training session with the team we knew he was pretty special. The Jaguar. Hard worker and courageous. He wasn’t physically big but he had a presence that generated excitement and energy whenever he was on the field. Resilience and capacity to work hard through any hurdle were hallmarks of his on-field courage.  Brought hair dye to the Wallabies until Beaver Jones took him to the abyss with a raised eyebrow.

13. Dan Herbert – From an era of Queenslanders that provided the backbone of what it was to be a Wallaby - Hard, Honest and Uncompromising. He didn’t accept anything less than others giving their best and working hard for your teammates. Revolutionized physical prep with ground-breaking magneto mat…

14. Lote Tuqiri – He could create something from nothing. He had everything that makes a winger great. He had three shins when it came to kicking. Teams would kick to him knowing he wouldn’t kick back, which worked well for us. We could just wait on the halfway line and watch him run the ball back, three kneeing defenders on the way back. Amazingly talented cross over athlete.

15. Matt Burke – You need someone on your team who can single-handedly win a game. He had a history of carrying a team with his ability to score points and most often when a team was underperforming, he would provide the catalyst to change the momentum of games. Loved a mash story.

We’ve spoken to some of Australia’s most-loved past players and asked them to nominate their Open Universities Australia (OUA) Dream XV. OUA, our official Education Partner, are helping Australian players’ off-field dreams come to life through their in their support of RUPA. OUA support RUPA and the players by providing multiple full scholarship opportunities every year, with current and former male and female players all eligible to apply.

OUA’s mission is to make studying at university possible for everyone, anywhere, at any time in their lives. They offer thousands of online subjects and close to 400 online degrees from over 20 leading universities.

They also enable their students to customise their university experience by selecting subjects from multiple universities, graduating with a qualification from the university where they studied the most. The flexibility of studying online also means OUA students can tailor their study load to fit around their availability and existing commitments. For more information, visit http://www.open.edu.au  or phone 1300 513 044.