Dark times and a ‘bad idea’ behind him, Aus A tour sets Gibbon up for Wallabies chance

After a difficult and tumultuous journey, Matt Gibbon is back where he was three years ago, in a Wallabies camp, with a gold jersey right there, ready to grab.

The Melbourne Rebels prop is with the squad preparing for service in Argentina following an Angus Bell toe injury, and his own impressive performances in the A team’s Pacific Nations Cup d Australia to Fiji, where the retro style of rugby stimulated his spirit and allowed him to shine.

While there are certainly some Wallabies who grew up with the silver spoon, Gibbon’s life story is far from privileged except one that comes from the love of his family.

Until the age of 10, Gibbon and his brother Alex lived with their parents in Alstonville, New South Wales. Chrissy Pollock, her mother, and Chris Gibbon, her father, had met at House with No Steps, a farm where people with disabilities could work.

Chrissy was born with cerebral palsy and has the mental and emotional range of a 10-year-old, Gibbon told the Herald Sun in 2020. Chris had been in a car accident as a child and suffered severe brain damage.

“They thought they could be responsible enough, but they just couldn’t,” Gibbon told the newspaper, adding that his childhood was invaded by “cyclists and drug addicts” who took advantage of his parents.

“There were some pretty dark times, no great people hanging around the house. It was not an ideal environment for children,” Gibbon said.

Matt Gibbon during an Australian Wallabies training session at Royal Pines Resort on July 27, 2022 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

“My parents knew about everyday things, but they just didn’t understand them properly.”

Their dad was “getting pretty bad, he was up to some things, so we left him,” Gibbon recalled. The boys were taken in by their grandfather Dave Pollock, who became their rugby coach and helped them on his cattle farm.

“I would be up in the morning milking a cow or there would be one loose on the road, I would have to pick it up and then I would go to school. It was much more stable,” Gibbon said.

“My grandfather was also my first rugby coach. He used to make us race in practice, and one time we just said we weren’t going to race, and he said ‘OK’ and went to his car. He came back with an original whip and cracked it several times. You should have seen us run.

In 2019, Gibbon was working as an electrician and playing club rugby in Sydney when he went on trial with the Rebels. Then coach Dave Wessels was a fan and played him every game.

He was called up for the Wallabies camp ahead of the World Cup but admitted on Wednesday he probably should have passed up the chance.

“It was really awesome,” Gibbon said. “There were early morning workouts where it was me, Nela and all the other big guys going up and down Coogee Beach.

“To be honest, I was supposed to do a shoulder rec before committing to this. I just said I don’t want it if I’m in the Wallabies team, I want f— ing trying to stay there. So I just brushed a shoulder recognition.

“It was probably a bad idea. My shoulder started falling off during the year. But it was a great experience there and it’s a great experience now and we’ll see how we go.

Gibbon must have grown faster than most children. He told the Herald Sun that he and his older brother roam the streets at night.

“My brother and I did bad things, hung out with bad people,” Gibbon said.

“No one would say ‘no’ to us. We really did what we wanted, we just thought it was normal.

Maturity is on its way.

“I’ve definitely grown up a bit,” Gibbon says of the time between camp in 2019 and now. “I’m 27 now and I was 24 at the time. Before that I was a ‘sparky’ so it was my first year of rugby and I didn’t really know how everything worked.

“I think since then I’ve learned preparation and stuff like that – it’s important and also getting into that rugby mindset rather than just you’re here to have fun – you’re here to work. “

Gibbon got that shoulder reconstruction he needed at the start of 2021 and this year was left out of the Rebels Super Rugby opener.

Even after his return, he was benched for two weeks mid-season.

His trainer, Kevin Foote, “wasn’t very happy with me after a scrum against the Force. I think it was actually me and ‘Bobby’ Tuttle who was also an Australian A-rep. We didn’t play well but it gave us the kick in the ass to turn things around. If you’re gonna get dumped, you’re gonna have to go harder. “

Overall, it was a successful campaign.

“The biggest thing for me was just gaining weight and I think I carried that on last season. I had a bit of trepidation with my shoulders and my tackles and I had a really good pre-season” , Gibbon said.

“Going into this year, I wasn’t the first choice, but I knew if I could straighten my shoulders, be confident and gain weight, I was confident in my scrums.

“I started building my game around a good scrum and then everything after that was awesome. My carries started to improve, my tackling started to improve and eventually they started giving me some starts.

Gibbon was called up for the Australian Tour A, and you can tell it was an experience he cherished despite the heat in Fiji and the first loss to Samoa.

The games were old school – with no TMOs in place, and it took Aussies by surprise.

“I think we went there not expecting the TMO not to be there,” he said. “We didn’t talk about it and there were a few things where we didn’t react well,” Gibbon said.

“Then after that first game we kind of realised, okay it’s not here so we can just play football and that’s why I think we played so well against the United side. Fiji.

“We expected a damn good team and we knew whatever was going to happen was going to happen, so play rugby, play what’s in front of you if the ball goes down, don’t stop running, keep playing.

“I loved it. You just play rugby.

The team had to come together quickly and follow the Wallabies’ game plans and calls to prepare them for the best team calls.

“That first week was a little tough,” Gibbon said.

“Afterwards it was great. We started to gel really well, the boys were together, playing on the right foot, playing against quality players. I think we did really well to be honest, and it was really good preparation for it.

Gibbon’s early childhood struggles have given him resilience and perspective as he nears the greatest achievement any rugby kid across the country can dream of.

“I’ve been on the path for a while now. I struggled a bit with injuries, but I always looked to try and get back here and tried to really try.

“After a while you realize it’s rugby, it’s the pinnacle of playing for Australia. I’ve had a little time to think about it but until I get this jersey ‘or, I will continue to fight.

Sports Grp2

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