ACT Brumbies scrumhalf Joe Powell has been called into the squad to replace injured Nic White. The first-year apprentice carpenter with InsideOut has had to put down the tools temporarily to play with the Brumbies. Photo: Jeffrey Chan Joe Powell hopes to win a Brumbies contract next year. Photo: Matt Beford
He’s an unknown carpenter’s apprentice ready to take on some of the biggest names in Australian rugby, but Joe Powell is on a mission to build his rugby reputation before he returns to the tools on Monday.
The ACT Brumbies rookie, nicknamed Grommet for his resemblance to a young surfer with wavy, blond hair, will be thrust into the biggest Australian Super Rugby derby of the year on Friday night.
Powell was plucked from ACT rugby’s ranks as an emergency injury replacement for Wallabies scrumhalf Nic White only, but the 21-year-old says he won’t be overawed in his last Super Rugby match before returning to the hammer and nails on the job site at 7am Monday.
A paying Brumbies member since he was four, Powell has also put himself in the frame for a Brumbies contract next season.
Powell was putting up house frames at Torrens in Canberra’s south when Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham called to ask if he could put his tools down in time for a Super Rugby debut.
“It’s pretty surreal to think that a couple of weeks ago, I went from work on a Tuesday into a game,” Powell said.
“I’m lucky my boss and everyone at my job are all footy boys, that made it a bit easier telling them I wasn’t coming in the next day.
“It’s definitely better doing a bit of rugby than putting up frames and fitting out. I never thought I’d be involved a game like this; hopefully I can give it a good go. This is a chance to see if I’m up to it.”
The Brumbies are still searching for a long-term replacement for White, who is moving to France at the end of the Super Rugby season.
Powell is getting his chance from the bench while Michael Dowsett steps up in the No. 9 jersey.
The pair could find themselves as a regular partnership next year if they take their opportunity, with Powell ready to permanently down his tools.
Powell’s still finding his feet in the professional set-up. He double-checked with Brumbies staff whether they really wanted him to sign a team jersey after a game.
“It was always a goal of mine to play Super Rugby, but I never thought it would happen,” he said.
“I didn’t want to just chase footy for all my junior life and have nothing to go to. So I started my apprenticeship in case footy didn’t happen.
“But I’ve already missed two months of work [to train with the Brumbies] and I haven’t even been there a year. Bernie [Larkham] has taken me through everything I need to do, so I’m confident in that.”
Larkham has had his eye on the 83-kilogram Canberra junior for a long time, watching Powell go about his work in weekend footy for the Tuggeranong Vikings.
“We had him come in the pre-season training before Christmas … we’ve been watching him for a while and think he has huge potential,” Larkham said.
“He’s been great for us, fitted in very nicely and picked it up quickly. He’ll just take things in his stride.”
So what happens if the pint-sized Marist College graduate comes up against incumbent Wallabies No. 9 Nick Phipps? Or even worse, 140-kilogram giant Will Skelton?
“I’m comfortable [against Skelton] because I don’t have to deal with him, he’s the forwards’ job,” Powell grinned.
“I’m fine with that and [Phipps] is a great player. It’s pretty exciting for me.
“I’d love to show that I can be here next year, so while I’ve got the chance to show what I can do I’ll definitely take it. It’s better than working, that’s for sure.
“Hopefully I can get the gig.”
SUPER RUGBY ROUND 12
Friday: ACT Brumbies v NSW Waratahs at Canberra Stadium, 7.40pm. TV time: Live on Fox Sports 2. Tickets available from Ticketek.