I’ve got a confession to make. I called Kalyn Ponga this week, asking if he’d like to come work for me.
Melbourne Rebels lock Cadeyrn Neville first learnt about the British and Irish Lions when he was 12 and he read about them on the back of a cereal box.
Since he used to devour 16 weetbix, he had time to learn a lot.
That was the last time the touring side were in Australia, in 2001, losing 2-1 in a thrilling series.
Neville wants to be doing more than just reading about the Lions when they are here in June, hoping to finally win his first Wallabies cap.
The athletic 23-year-old has been part of the Australian squad since May after only making his Super Rugby debut in round eight of the 2012 season.
He was called over to Argentina and then on to the Wallabies’ European tour, but still hasn’t made it on to the playing field.
“It’s something you’ve got to manage in your head a little bit but it’s definitely exciting to be in the Wallabies set-up,” said Neville, who has been getting back into full training with the Rebels this week.
“You’ve just got to cool your jets a little bit until you get on to the field.”
Following the retirement of skipper Nathan Sharpe, there’s a vacancy in the Wallabies second-row which Neville or his Rebels teammate Hugh Pyle hope to fill.
Given the opening Lions Test on June 22 in Brisbane is the first of the year for Australia, Super Rugby form is more crucial than ever.
“Not that I’d say I’d be filling all the roles that he (Sharpe) had in the team but it does open the door a little bit,” said Neville, who is a former AIS rower.
“It’s not going to be easy to get a spot but I’ll be giving it my best.”
Former Australian lock Matt Cockbain, who is now a coach at the Rebels, played in Australia’s 2001 triumph over the Lions.
“A highlight of my career was that series win,” Cockbain said.
“It was like we’d won the World Cup.”
Cockbain said he believed Neville and Pyle, who has been likened to a young John Eales, were ready to step up.
“Sharpie had that real leadership that is going to be hard to replace,” he said.
“I think Cadeyrn and Hugh can challenge this year.
“Cadeyrn has the right attitude and he does everything at 100 per cent and Hugh had a few things in his game that he needed to fix that could be shown up at Test level but he’s been working hard on those things.”