IT’S NOT hard to see what attracted first-year Brumbies coach Jake White to Jesse Mogg in the first place.
White, who took a committed and disciplined South African side to Rugby World Cup victory in 2007, has always liked players with the two Ts – ticker and talent. And Mogg has oodles of both.
Born in Brisbane and educated at St Patrick’s College in Shorncliffe – the same school as injured Wallabies wing Drew Mitchell – Mogg could have become one of those ‘whatever happened to?’ stories of Australian rugby after representing his state while he was at high school.
Those who follow the rival code would have known that the 22-year-old was poached to play league for the Brisbane Broncos – his home team – while he was playing senior club rugby in his first year out of school. He played a series of games for the club’s Toyota Cup (under 20) side in 2009 – where he turned out alongside the likes of Force centre Will Tupou and Kangaroos test wing Jharal Yow Yeh in the centres or on the wing – but the lure of the 15-man game proved irresistible when the Brumbies offered him a chance to travel south for an Academy trial in 2010.
“I enjoyed myself at the Broncos, because they had a good programme there. But I felt that I had a lot of learning to do in the game. I just felt more comfortable heading back to union,” says Mogg.
The Brumbies were suitably impressed with what the big-kicking fullback cum wing had to offer, opening up a place for him on their Academy roster. He has spent the last two seasons with the Brumby Runners – not to mention standing out for his club side, Wests Lions, in the John I Dent Cup – but it wasn’t until White showed up out of the blue at a Wests game one day that things started to happen for this laidback Queenslander.
Two days after watching him strut his stuff at North Oval, White was on the phone asking Mogg if he’d like to join the senior Brumbies squad at their training camp in Narrabeen.
“Jake came to one of my games in Canberra and things just really progressed from there,” he says.
“Fortunately for me, I played well that day. He sat down and said he wanted to make his own judgements about players, and not just go on what he’s heard from others. That was great to hear.”
As it turned out, White’s intervention couldn’t have come at a better time. Although Mogg had clocked up a couple of state appearances in pre-season Super Rugby games against the Reds and the Hurricanes last year, he was growing tired of not getting a chance to prove himself at the Brumbies.
“I’d been in the Academy down here in Canberra for two years and I was really just playing club rugby. Nothing was sort of coming, so I decided that I was going to head back up to Brisbane and ply my trade in the local comp up there at the end of the season.”
White was quick to offer Mogg one of five extended playing squad (EPS) contracts he had at his disposal, and his young charge has been making every post a winner so far.
Starting out with a man-of-the-match performance in the victory over the Force in round one, which saw him score a vital try on debut from the left wing, Mogg has gone on to grasp every opportunity that has come his way with both hands.
He’s had to, really, because his status as an EPS player means that he will probably have to step aside when Robbie Coleman – a fully contracted player – returns from a groin injury in the coming weeks.
Mogg was initially promoted to the playing squad after Wallaby Pat McCabe was unable to take his place in the backline in week one due the shoulder injury that ruined his 2011 Rugby World Cup campaign.
It’s a sign of the admiration that White has for Mogg’s strong-running and big-kicking game that he has kept his place at fullback since McCabe made his return from injury in round three. He has also told Mogg to keep working on his goalkicking – which was a strong feature of his game in club rugby last year – because he will be asked to line up the odd shot from time to time.
So far this season, however, it has been Mogg’s tactical kicking that has really caught the eye.
Blessed with a booming left-foot punt that can only be described as Carter-esque, he has the ability to turn defensive situations into potential attacking chances with his raking kicks from the back.
“I’ve always had a fairly strong kick, and I’ve worked really hard with (backs coach) Stephen Larkham over the last six months to take advantage of it. It’s definitely one of the stronger aspects of my game.
“The idea for most teams is to try and play in the opposition half, so if you can get down there by kicking yourself into position it’s going to set you up really well.”
Mogg also has a crafty chip kick in his arsenal – which, like Carter, he is known to catch on the full.
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