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'His athleticism is through the roof': Brumbies' 'excitement machine' who looks destined for gold

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9th June, 2024
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The Brumbies tied down Charlie Cale to a one-year extension last week, before he made a stunning return in their quarterfinal win over the Highlanders. Let’s all hope the club and Rugby Australia are already nutting out a way to tie him down for the next decade.

Cale came back after a stint out with an ankle injury and produced a magnificent performance. His backrow partner Rob Valetini might have been named the man of the match on a night when there were several contenders, but no one could have argued if it gone home with Cale.

It seems inconceivable that the backrower won’t be called up by Joe Schmidt for at least the extended squad before the July Tests against Georgia and Wales, and if he can replicate Saturday’s performance versus the Blues next weekend, the clamour for him to wear gold this year will get even louder.

Cale broke into the Brumbies squad last season but has stepped into a backrow vacancy left by Pete Samu and excelled.

On announcing the contract signing, Cale said he was committed to an extended stay with the Brumbies, despite the short-term nature of the new deal.

“I love the Brumbies. I was born in Sydney, but I call this place home now, they took a chance on me and I’m forever grateful,” he said. “I want to be here, and I want to be here for a long time.”

Former Wallaby lock Justin Harrison has a lot of gigs already, but seems a shoo-in to be inaugural president of the Charlie Cale Fan Club.

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“His athleticism is through the roof,” said Harrison on Stan Sport.

“He’s just outstanding. He’s an excitement machine. He’s a kid that’s playing well above his age and maturity, and Super capped, first time back on the field after a prolonged injury.

“He has taken off. Everything he’s doing at the moment is promoting the ball to be in better condition when he gets it for his teammates.”

Cale snaffled the Highlanders’ first lineout on Saturday night and menaced them throughout.

He was superb running out wide and sent Andy Muirhead, another potential MOTM, across for the opening try with a perfectly executed flick pass having drawn in the cover defence.

Andy Muirhead of the Brumbies celebrates scoring a try during the Super Rugby Pacific Quarter Final match between ACT Brumbies and Highlanders at GIO Stadium, on June 08, 2024, in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Charlie Cale and Andy Muirhead celebrate a try. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

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“He’s got good presence at line-out time, he’s good in the wide channels with his ball-carrying, he’s a very dynamic, athletic player,” raved coach Stephen Larkham midweek.

After the match Harrison told Cale: “That performance tonight, for you personally, had everything. You’re regathering high balls, shifting out wide, making sure you’re in tight as well. That’s probably a pretty complete game.”

Watch every match of Super Rugby Pacific ad-free, live & on demand on the Home of Rugby, Stan Sport

The quietly spoken 23-year-old replied: “Something I’m really trying to work on is becoming a complete player.

“You’re not always going to get the ball and there’s so many aspects to the game. Every game is different but the fundamentals are more important and that’s what the Brumbies coaches have been helping me work on.”

Charlie Cale of the Brumbies is tackled during the round one Super Rugby Pacific match between Melbourne Rebels and ACT Brumbies at AAMI Park, on February 23, 2024, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

Charlie Cale. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

While his exciting upright running gets the fans off their feet, he knows the importance of digging in hard in defence.

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“We were really pushed throughout the week that defence wins those finals games,” said Cale. “Our defence all season has been really good because we brought that new defensive system in at the start.”

While a call up to the Wallabies 23 alongside Valetini could be premature, there is a lot of excitement about Cale’s impact and how good he can ultimately be.

“We know that physically he’s going to work hard, get into an off-season, probably put on one or two more kilos of muscle strength,” Harrison said.

“But his ability to give the ball back to his teammates in better condition than when he got it is outstanding.”

Cale could have no better role model right now than Valetini, the Wallabies’ best player. He was typically excellent against the Highlanders, charging hard into the line and making dents in defence for his teammates to exploit.

“It’s the norm now,” said Brumbies fullback Tom Wright. “He seeks no praise [but] everyone that watches the game knows how important he is to us and he is to the Wallabies as well. 

“He’s taken his game to world class and that’s no surprise because he works super hard.”

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