IT’S BEEN a long and eventful ride for Brackin Karauria-Henry to get into the NSW Waratahs, but one the Auckland-born utility back doesn’t regret.
A product of Christchurch Boys’ High School and the Halswell Hornets rugby league club, and a relative of several former All Blacks, Karauria-Henry was a coveted junior star at several sports. But at 16 he chose league and decamped across the pond to join the NRL’s Cronulla Sharks.
After playing through all the junior ranks with the club, Karauria-Henry headed back to rugby in 2009.
“I enjoyed my time at Cronulla,” he says. “But things were a bit stagnant, a bit stale at the time. I always wanted to get back to rugby.”
Karauria-Henry joined Southern Districts in the NSW Shute Shield and eventually turned out for the Australian Sevens side, becoming the team’s leading tryscorer in the 2009-2010 World Series circuit.
“It was a good opportunity to play sevens, I loved every minute of it,” he says.
Karauria-Henry was selected to represent Australia at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, but a passport bungle ruled him out.
“It was really disappointing,” he says.
Karauria-Henry admits it was a “weird situation” playing for Australia at first but says he wouldn’t change anything.
“It’s definitely a privilege to play for Australia,” he says. “It’s my adopted homeland now.”
In 2010 Karauria-Henry headed to the ACT Brumbies, appearing three times for the Super Rugby outfit. His potential was recognised at the end of the year when Wallabies coach Robbie Deans selected for him the Australian spring tour training camp. Karauria-Henry says this was a “massive surprise” and, despite not making the final cut for the European squad, he aims to get back into national contention in the future.
Last year he joined the Waratahs and returned to Sydney, where his partner and mother live. A back injury sidelined him for part of the 2011 season but this year, after a strong pre-season and several injuries, he was given a wing spot for the Waratahs’ opening game against the Queensland Reds.
NSW looked to have had the game won with the score 21-18 in their favour with 30 seconds left to play, when Reds winger Dom Shipperley broke free to score the winning try on the stroke of fulltime.
“It was shocking,” Karauria-Henry says. “We played well, [but] it was good play from the Reds. That’s rugby. We weren’t good enough to finish them off. We’ll learn.”
The 23-year old had limited opportunities in the match to show his ability, describing the game as one where “the ball didn’t really come my way”.
Despite the heart-breaking opening loss to the Reds, Karauria-Henry remains confident about the Waratahs’ chances.
“There’s no reason why we can’t do it this year,” he says. “With a new coach and new signings, we’re in good stead.”
Often a victim of his versatility – he covered several backline spots in league – his best role in union has yet to be revealed.
“I was a utility in league, I still have that tag in union,” he says. “I’m happy wherever they put me, I’m happy on the wing.”
ACT Brumby Christian Lealiifano would like to see his former teammate closer to the action.
“I think closer to the ball, I always thought he’d be a 12,” Lealiifano says. “He’s got a pretty good rugby brain and he’s got some good ball skills and can put people through holes. I don’t know how he’s adapted to the wing, but he’s looking alright there.”
Lealiifano describes Karauria-Henry as a good athlete with a lot of potential.
“He’s a pretty skilful ball player,” he says. “They need to obviously get him a bit more ball because one on one, I think he could beat a lot of people with his footwork. He’s pretty strong for a little fella. If he continues working hard at the Waratahs the opportunity will come back for him.”
For now the winger-cum-fullback’s attention is on the ’Tahs Super Rugby title tilt but with his NSW contract ending this year and an offer from Japanese club NTT Communications on the table, he has some big decisions to make. At the moment Karauria-Henry remains focused on what is in front of him but his preference is to stay in Sydney.
“I haven’t sorted it out yet,” he says. “I’m just concentrating on what’s ahead. I’ll make a decision when the time is right. [But] I’ll be happy wherever I go. My goal is to play as many games as I can for the Waratahs, and play well. Long-term, it’s to pull on the Wallabies jersey one day.”« Back to Articles
With the series level, expect both teams to put it all on the line as they seek to win the deciding test in Sydney on Saturday night.