To play for the Wallabies is a dream achievement for any young man playing rugby and it was one that came true for Warren product Ben McCalman on Saturday night at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.
McCalman made his test debut in the Tri-Nations series against South Africa, coming off the bench in the 65th minute.
It was a pretty special occasion for McCalman’s family, who farm sheep and wheat on their Warren property.
Growing up on the farm, McCalman attended St Mary’s Primary School in Warren and began his journey playing as a junior for the Macquarie Emus.
The 22-year-old back-rower went to school at Kinross Wallaroi in Orange, where he played in the first XV, and for Australian schoolboys. He then represented his country in the under-19s and 20s.
But this year would have to be the biggest in McCalman’s career - he made the Australian Barbarians, starring in their win against England last month and enjoyed his first season in the Super 14 competition with the Western Force.
In between all the high-profile action he plays for his club-rugby side, Sydney University and admits he doesn’t get home to Warren as much as he’d like to.
After missing out on selection in the 22-man Wallabies squad last week, McCalman was due to play for Sydney University in the Shute Shield competition. But a late withdrawal of back-rower Matt Hodgson, groin injury, saw the boy from Warren called up to the bench.
“I knew that it would take only one injury and I’d be called in,” he said.
“But I was pretty excited when it actually happened and I got the call.
“The support I’ve received has been great, a lot of mates I haven’t spoken to in awhile have been in touch with me, along with teachers from my former school and so on.
“My mum, nan, brother and girlfriend travelled up from Warren to watch me and it was great to have them there.
“They were very proud and excited and it was pretty special for them to.”
Running onto the field as a Wallaby for the first time, McCalman admits it felt a little surreal.
“When I was pulled on around the 65th minute, I remember taking the field and just thinking it was pretty crazy,” he said.
“You really notice that you’re playing at another level. I just tried to put myself straight into it and was very happy with my performance. I was able to touch the ball a few times and made a few tackles in defence and overall I really enjoyed it.
“It was a very quick game and you notice that you’re up against some very big men.”
This weekend the Wallabies face the All Blacks at Etihad Stadium, but with Hodgson cleared from his groin injury, McCalman is once again set to return to Sydney, missing out on the 22-man selection.
“It is pretty disappointing, but it has been good to be able to train with the boys this week in Melbourne,” he said.
“I was happy to get the chance to be part of a great win and our first of the Tri-nations series.”