At 38 years, Josh Mann-Rea is at an age where those still playing often become worried about their future in the game, with fears time and opportunities are quickly passing them by.
Mann-Rea is the complete opposite. He expresses gratitude for every opportunity that has come his way. Nothing is taken for granted.
He has never been put on a pedestal and is clearly a team player. He has always been prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure the team has success on and off the field.
You often see this with players who have undertaken broader life experiences before being paid to play professional sport. These are players who have been given an unexpected second chance at playing.
That is exactly what happened with Josh who walked away from rugby, believing the chance to play Super Rugby had passed him by. He took up work in the coal mines in the Illawarra region.
The second chance came in the form of a contract to play in Japan followed by a call-up to the Waratahs. His Super Rugby debut came at the age of 31 years.
At 32 years, an age when many are contemplating retirement, he is offered a deal to play with the Brumbies for the 2013 season.
Then in 2014, this remarkable story takes another twist as Josh is called into the Wallabies squad by then Australian coach, Ewen McKenzie, for the Rugby Championship Series. He went on to play two tests for the Wallabies.
In the time between then and now, he has signed a contract extension until the end of this current season.
Whether he would make it through to the end of the contract period was uncertain at times; last season, his leg went numb and he couldn’t stand up after a suffering a horrifying injury during a clean-out gone wrong. But he never gave up and was determined to come back bigger and better.
During the current season, he has come off the bench, adding experience at the back-end of games. I have seen many in a similar situation becoming disgruntled by this, but not Josh. His leadership in this role has been crucial to team harmony.
Last weekend, Josh suffered a knee injury in the Brumbies win over the Stormers in Cape Town, and many are seeing this as career-ending. But I wouldn’t be too quick to write him off at this stage.
A cursory glance at his rugby life so far is enough to ensure a cautious approach.
Original Article published by Tim Gavel on The RiotACT.