It can be lonely and isolated as fullback of a rugby side.
A missed tackle usually results in an opposition try, while a dropped ball will receive a distinctive groan from the crowd.
Fullback can be a thankless task that’s often encased in pressure and expectation. So why would anyone want to be a rugby fullback?
Jackson William Bentley is fullback for his club side, his representative team and now the Illawarra Academy of Sport (IAS). He loves every second of it.
“The pressure is the best part,” he said. Bentley said the responsibility of determining his side’s success is why he keeps training and working at his game.
Bentley will line up for the IAS this weekend at the ClubsNSW Academy Games, which are being held in Wollongong for the first time. Sporting academies from across the state will converge on the Illawarra, with over 1000 emerging athletes striving for success. Seven sports will be on show, and the University of Wollongong will host the rugby.
Bentley discovered the game ‘they play in Heaven’ while watching a friend’s efforts on the field five years ago. While watching his friend, Jackson was amazed by the intensity and intellect nature of the 15-aside game.
“I use to play soccer but found rugby to be more intense and decided I wanted to play it instead,” Bentley said.
Now, 15-year-old Bentley is on the cusp of making further representative sides, and his dream of playing for the Wallabies alive and well.
The IAS assists Bentley and all its athletes with their physical and mental development. Programs are structured around the individual to ensure all their needs are met. In Jackson’s case, time management is a vital aspect in his progress. Not only does the Keira High School student need to balance school and work, he has to fit in six days a week of union commitments. His week consists of training for his club side, the Vikings, and representative duties for the Illawarriors and the IAS. The workload is overwhelming at times, but Bentley realises if he is going to be the next James O’Connor or Quade Cooper then this is how it is has to be.
“The academy helps in time management, making sure that school and work are balanced and rugby does not take up all my time,” Bentley said.
The ClubsNSW Academy Games will provide selectors and spectators an opportunity to watch the next generation of sporting stars. Remember the name Jackson William Bentley, for you may be hearing it a lot more in future years.
Come kick off on Friday, Illawarra fans can rest easy knowing their fullback is ready for action. Missed tackles unlikely, bone-crunching hits a certainty. And his opponents should note … Bentley likes to run the ball.
Words: NATHAN THOMPSON
Audio: KRISTINE TARBERT