SHOALHAVEN Rugby Club stalwart Michael Hayes has achieved plenty in his playing career, including playing for both the Queesland and New South Wales teams before the formation of Super Rugby, but one thing he’d never done was pull on a Wallabies jersey.
That all changed on Saturday night, when he got the late call-up to play for the Classic Wallabies against the Barbarians in Brisbane.
“Former Wallabies centre James Holbeck actually ran into me at the Queensland Reds trial match against the Chiefs on Friday at Ballymore,” Hayes said.
“He said ‘you look like you can still play, so how about playing for the Classic Wallabies tomorrow?’
“I made him say it twice, because I thought I was hearing things – but naturally I jumped at the chance because I know how much work the initiative does for the rugby community around the country.”
The next day, when he rocked up to play for the Classic Wallabies, which formed to celebrate and continue the mate ship and camaraderie beyond the playing days while helping to grow and develop the great game of rugby, Hayes was named in the Gold team.
During the game, Hayes, who is a former captain and coach of Shoals, took to the field with former rugby greats such as Gary Pearce, Pat Howard, Pat Phibbs, Lote Tuqiri, Dean Mumm, Mark Chisholm, Nathan Sharpe, Justin Harrison, Sam Cordingley, Nick Gregorski, Albert Anae, Mark Gerrard, Beau Robinson, Andrew Walker, Jimmy Holbeck, David Croft, Mark Connors, Radike Samo, Sean Hardman, Moses Raulini, Morgan Turinui and Lachlan Turner.
It also marked the first time he’d puled the boots on for six years.
“During the game, I probably had two moments that stood out from the rest,” Hayes said.
“The first was lining up at inside centre, outside fellow Shoalhaven boy Andrew Walker.
“Even though we never played together back for Shoals, it was so nice to be able to play alongside him.
“The other came at a scrum, on their feed.
“We were all lining up and somehow I was opposite Radike Samo – I knew there’s was only one thing on his mind when he got the ball; run.
“So I put my pride on the line, with my eldest son Billy in the crowd, crouched down and hit him around the waste and thankfully I just held on – I’m just lucky he ran straight.”
Hayes, who was also lucky enough to score a try in the match, said playing in this game is something he’ll cherish forever.
“The wasn’t like a run of the mill golden oldies match, this match was as fierce – with me still sporting all the bumps and bruises now,” he said.
“We all put on a show for the spectators with some attacking rugby – playing the great game how it should be played.”
The day in Brisbane also saw the Classic Wallaroos play their first game against a Brothers Rugby Club side, which followed a children’s coaching clinic in the morning – with all proceeds raised going to local men’s health organisations.