Gerard McCallum has taken the long road in his trip to the Intrust Super Cup. From Quakers Hill in Sydney’s west, to Narbonne in the South of France back to Sydney, before finally reaching Coorparoo.
The 2010 Australia School Boys rugby league side featured James Tedesco, Jack Wighton, David Klemmer and Gerard McCallum. McCallum was a dynamic and exciting young footballer balancing his commitments between study, playing for his school and playing NYC for the Canterbury Bulldogs. He won the Peter Sterling Medal in that years School Boys Cup final as The Hills Sports High School defeated noted rugby league nursery Keebra Park State High School 18-14.
This is not your stereotypical rugby league story, we have all read them – a young man with the world at his feet who stumbles, nearly loses his career and seeks redemption. It could have been though, McCallum freely admits that as his time at the Bulldogs was coming to an end he was not playing the game for the right reasons, he was not giving it one hundred percent and was not the best trainer.
However, he is too intelligent and driven a young man to let opportunities slip away. A heart to heart with Bulldogs stalwart Corey Payne led to a meeting between himself, his manager Mario Tartak and Payne. The three got their heads together and the result was a seemingly unlikely move to playing rugby union in France for the Racing Club de Narbonne. Playing alongside some of the all-time greats including Jerry Collins, Rocky Elsom and with players of the quality of Wallaby Brett Sheehan and Daniel Halangahu (74 games for the Waratahs) revitalised him and reminded him what he was missing back in Australia.
In July 2015, he returned to Australia and big clubs came knocking, there were offers, top 25 contracts. However, McCallum knew that if you want to build a future on the field you also need to build a future off the field. He said, ‘thank you, but no thank you’ and played part time for his local club, Hills Bulls, while finishing the plumbing apprenticeship he had started before leaving for France.
As 2016 was coming to an end he had finished his apprenticeship, was enjoying his football and was ready for the next challenge in his life. Then he received a fortuitous phone call from former Canterbury team mate Jake Foster. In his second season with the Easts Tigers, and about to be named club captain, Foster told McCallum that it was the club for him. He told him Brisbane was a cheaper place to live with a more relaxed lifestyle. Most importantly he told him the Tigers was a great club with a great culture and with the right people in the right places. Quick chats with coach Scott Sipple and CEO Brian Torpy followed and McCallum was a Tiger.
Sipple describes him as a “Natural try scorer who is always looking for a chance.” He works hard in the gym and hard in training, he is his own harshest critic and we are trying to get him to not be so tough on himself Sipple said.
He may have arrived in Brisbane as somewhat of an unknown, but eight tries in thirteen games have seen him firmly ensconced as a favourite with Tigers fans and saw him come very close to Queensland Residents selection.
Sitting with McCallum on a sunny Sunday Afternoon at Suzuki Stadium Langlands Park you realise you are in the presence of a very contented young man. He is loving his work, loving his footy and describes the move to the Tigers as “The best thing I’ve ever done.”
Roger Federer once said, “There is no way round hard work, embrace it” and he might well have been talking about Gerard McCallum. McCallum could well be sitting back and enjoying the fruits of his labours, in fact he is pushing himself as hard now as he ever has.