After being labelled the best schoolboy talent since Kurtley Beale, Andrew Kellaway lived up to the hype in last year’s NRC, finishing his inaugural season with the NSW Country Eagles as the competition’s leading tryscorer.
The 19-year-old Scots College product was rewarded with a spot in the Waratahs full time squad in 2015 and is looking to use the upcoming NRC season to push his way into a Sky Blue jersey next year.
“That’s what the NRC is for. It’s there as a platform for blokes in my sort of position, to be able to test themselves and to show and prove to everyone else that we are ready for the next level,” Kellaway told Rugby News.
In his first year out of school, Kellaway was a revelation for the Eagles last year, helping NSW Country finish second after the regular season and claim a home semi final – a match they lost to eventual champions Brisbane City 32-26.
“It was tough and really fast, the rule changes definitely accommodated for that,” he said.
“It was different to Shute Shield and that was good for the young guys like myself to be exposed to that physicality but to also learn the importance of running rugby in Australian rugby.”
The level-headed outside back, nicknamed ‘The Fire’, shows maturity well beyond his 19 years and was quick to credit some of his older Eagles teammates for fast tracking his development.
“Brendan McKibbin and Matt Carraro were two of the guys that had a big effect on me. I grew up watching them play, so to be able to train and play alongside them was pretty special.”
“Both of them taught me a lot and I’m very thankful for that.”
Kellaway will be without both McKibbin and Carraro for this year’s season, with just nine players returning from the 2014 campaign. Despite that, he’s hopeful a full season with the Waratahs will put him in good stead for the NRC season.
“I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life so far, which is great. On top of that, I’ve learnt to play a different style of footy (under Michael Cheika) and got to train alongside some of the greats of the game.”
And what number would he like to wear?
“Moving forward, I’d like to play fullback or even outside centre at the next level as opposed to just being a winger.”
“So far, I’ve been training at fullback and I feel I’m a lot more free to work my way and stay in the game as both a ball player and an attacking threat out wide and that really suits my game I think and suits the way I want to play.”
The Eagles ramped up preparations with a three-day camp in Newcastle last week, ahead of their opening match against the Greater Sydney Rams this Saturday.
“The boys were sharp at the camp, we’re all really looking forward to that first match at Merrylands.”
Kellaway will link with Randwick teammate Dave Horwitz, Brumbies scrumhalf Mike Dowsett and Western Force recruit Jono Lance in an exciting Eagles backline, which he thinks will be happy to throw the ball around this season.
“The purpose of the NRC is to play running rugby, so that’s what we are going to try and do. (Michael) Dowsett and Jono Lance are both class footballers so I’m looking forward to playing outside them.”
But first up, the Eagles will need to match the physicality of the Rams – who they beat 31-2 in the opening round of last season.
“They’ll be tough. The Rams have a big forward pack with a few guys that will be pretty threatening, but the backs will be tough as well so you’d think they’ll be a pretty well rounded outfit,” Kellaway said.
“Hopefully there are a few guys still dusty from Eastwood’s Mad Monday.”
The Eagles travel to Merrylands to face the Rams this Saturday at 3pm.