All Blacks: Many reasons to fear Aussie genius

By Wynne Gray

Will Genia leans forward, his charcoal eyes zoned in.

"Mate I'm not worried about next weekend. I wanna do it this weekend. This is the big one, this is what has to happen after the win against South Africa. I think we can do it."

Genia is only 22, a Wallaby of tender experience but already a leader in the team. He screams class, he has time, he plays off the cuff, he is DANGER in capital letters.

The All Blacks know it. Their coaches made regular mentions of him this week; Jimmy Cowan was generous in his observations.

Genia is a livewire, words stream out of his mouth as easily as the flow of passes to his backlines. He speaks like a veteran and plays like a champion.

It is easy to see who is the fulcrum for the Wallaby hopes in Melbourne tonight; the playmaker, the little bloke wearing the No 9 Wallaby jersey.

"We've got a group that is good enough, knows what we have to work on and is starting to realise the way we want to play is good enough to beat sides," Genia says.

"We have to get over the fact that we've lost to these blokes for so long. That black jersey represents so much in terms of a winning culture that you just have to get over that.

"I think once you do, if you look at the two sides on paper there is not much in it.

"It's all about who wants it more and is willing to hold on right to the death because I think that's what classic Bledisloes are all about.

"You have to trust in what you want to do and enjoy it."

Genia is having fun. He has played rugby for only a decade since leaving Papua New Guinea to board at Brisbane Boys College.

Until then sport for Sanchez Will Genia was pickup soccer and backyard cricket.

His father is a former PNG cabinet minister responsible for Justice, Foreign Affairs and Defence in his spell in government.

During that time family privacy was limited. Genia remembers they had a swimming pool but rarely got to use it because there would be swags of people sitting around it waiting for appointments with his father.

He grew up with an extended family and reckons that kept him grounded. He returns to PNG regularly to reaquaint himself with that lifestyle.

During secondary school in Brisbane, Genia hit 98 (caught on the boundary) and four half centuries for the Second XI but by then he had the footy bug. He was also homesick, he reckoned, until he was 15. Every time his parents left after dropping him off for another term, Genia cried.

"I was straightaway into footy though," he said.

"I had played touch which helped skills and co-ordination but the hard part was learning the rules. Not many people know them let alone the game, coming from Papua New Guinea.

"I was lucky, I had good hand-eye co-ordination and was light on my feet."

He spent two years in the First XV, a goalkicking five-eighth or halfback who then marched through the state and age-group sides.

Former Wallaby coach Eddie Jones saw Genia playing under-19s and whistled him into the Reds squad. He got on the field just ahead of Quade Cooper with whom he has formed such a strong Super 14 alliance.

Genia's main weapon is speed. He can slip tackles, snake out passes, pounce on opponents and make quick decisions.

"Whatever your decision is, you have to back it. One of my coaches told me that you're better making a bad decision quickly than a good decision slowly," Genia said.

The further he went up the rugby ladder the better it got.

He got to challenge idols like Daniel Carter. He loved watching him play and occasionally he found himself marvelling at some Carter deed mid-match.

"He has got so much time and I have tried to take a leaf out of his book in the way he is so calm, cool and never cracks under pressure.

"In any situation, he just walks round taking his time. It is a great attribute. I find my heart rate goes up because of the excitement not the pressure but the more you keep calm, the better decisions you will make."

Stephen Larkham, George Smith and Matt Giteau were others who were equally together on the field.

Genia took his time absorbing rugby lessons from those sorts of players. He also got some great advice from his father. "He told me coaches can tell you what to do and you can come off the field and they can congratulate you. But you have to play what is in front of you, you have to sum up situations and deal with them.

"Coaches like Robbie [Deans] and Ewen McKenzie allow you to express yourself on the field.

"I thought, 'don't be nervous, go out and play'. I wanted to back myself and do things I was best at doing."

Genia loves his job. He can't think of anything better at the moment.

He's learned that training form does not equate to what happens on the field and how important it is to keep the body fresh.

He does not like to be too pre-programmed and he does not overdo the computer analysis, but he has appreciated the value of off-season downtime.

"You have to see things you can target as a team but I do not like saying I'm going to target this or that. I like to play what is in front of me and I think that is one of my strengths."

He and girlfriend Vanessa visited Egypt after last year's tour to Europe, although the traffic congestion and sweet food were not his favourite. But it was rare relaxation. It was gold - something as elusive as the Wallabies and Genia are searching for tonight in Melbourne.

- NZ Herald

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