Izack Rodda's star on rise as Wallaby debut beckons
THE STELLAR rise of Queensland Reds lock Izack Rodda comes as no surprise to those who have played a key role in his rugby development.
The 20-year-old former Ipswich Grammar School student and First XV star is in camp with the Wallabies after being named in the extended squad ahead of the Bledisloe Cup clash on August 19 with the All Blacks.
Rodda is in the frame to win a stunning Test debut in Saturday night's clash at ANZ Stadium, just one day before he turns 21.
Speaking with the QT in camp, the 202cm tall Rodda said he was "stoked" to get the e-mail notifying him of his squad selection and that he had learned plenty about the Wallabies systems while in camp.
"I've learned a lot from all the locks in the squad, guys like Adam Coleman and Rory Arnold," he said.
"They have helped me a lot with all the plays.
"The World Cup is coming up in 2019 and one of my goals is definitely to make that team."
Rodda's Wallaby debut may yet come sooner than that.
Rodda, who said Queensland and Wallabies legend John Eales was one of his idols, played 12 games of Super Rugby in his debut season with the Reds in 2017.
His development has been such that Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, when unveiling his squad earlier this month, said he would be prepared to throw him into the cauldron against the All Blacks.
"He's a big body, I like his attitude and I see a big future for him," Cheika said.
"He's definitely not there as a development player."
Rodda was a lock forward or prop as a league player in his home town of Evans Head in NSW and started playing rugby when he was 13.
He was initially a number eight in rugby union but as he grew the move to lock made sense.
"I started off wanting to play NRL, but I switched solid to rugby when I went up to Ipswich Grammar and it grew on me," he said.
"I'd never really jumped or called lineouts and I learned all that there. The coach Dave Eagle was a big help to me to improve my skills."
Ipswich Grammar School's director of sport Nigel Greive said Rodda's rise and rise was a tribute to his character and his immense skill.
"When we first saw Izack he was a massive frame but the thing that stood out was his ability to motor around the paddock and his thirst to learn," he said.
"He was raw but he he was like a sponge, and his work ethic was second to none.
"You can't coach height, and that is a massive advantage. On top of that, he is just a delightful man across the board."
Rodda has a wonderful mentor at the Reds in assistant coach Brad Thorn, who won a World Cup with the All Blacks in 2011.
"He's an unreal guy and has been really helpful with the younger players," Rodda said.
"Brad has helped with any of the things we need to work on.
"For me, I wasn't the best scrummager and I was still learning how to jump (in the lineout) and he has given me some pointers to help me improve.
"He was a great player and one of the best locks to have played the game. He was renowned for his physicality."
The season was a learning curve for Rodda at the Reds, and he puts his regular Super Rugby selection down to what he did before a ball was kicked.
"I reckon I improved in everything to be honest," he said.
"I wasn't the fittest going into pre-season so I got a lot fitter and toned down on my body fat. I got better at my scrummaging and lineout jumping, and I did all that in the pre-season.
"It was a good learning curve playing against the New Zealand teams because you have to stay in the game for the 80 minutes. We found that out against the Crusaders when we lost in the 80th minute with a penalty.
"I can definitely see the Reds getting better next year. This season we had a year to build... and I'm really excited for the year ahead if we can stick to our structures."
If Rodda doesn't play international rugby in the coming weeks he will be lining up with National Rugby Championships with Queensland Country, where Thorn is the head coach.
"It is a valuable competition because it gives (club) players a taste of the next level up and what they need to work on to get to the Super rugby level," Rodda said.
"It is a great stepping stone for people to grow and learn."
Ipswich will host an NRC clash on October 29 when Queensland Country play Perth Spirit at North Ipswich Reserve.