Confidence can be a remarkable thing. Ask about Bryce Hegarty’s progress as Melbourne Rebels’ five-eighth and that is often the improvement that is pointed to.
Hegarty had a shaky start to the season as he looked to confirm himself as the preferred replacement in the No.10 jersey for departed superstars James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale.
In truth, the Rebels did not have many options for the No.10 jersey after Waratahs playmaker Bernard Foley had a late change of heart last year against playing for Melbourne.
And, thrust into the playmaking role, which he filled at times in 2013, Hegarty struggled to control the team around the park; his kicking game was badly exposed at times and his game was potted with errors such as kicking out on the full and poor decision-making.
But in recent weeks a transformation has taken place. Suddenly, he has become far more confident, his mistakes less common and his play notable for his impressive actions, often setting up tries.
His progress will take another step against NSW Waratahs at AAMI Park on Friday night, when he will be the senior partner in the halves combination.
With Nic Stirzaker and former Wallabies halfback Luke Burgess suffering leg injuries, 22-year-old Ben Meehan, who has played five games off the bench for the Rebels, will be handed his first start at No.9.
Hegarty’s long-time mentor and family friend, former rugby league star Steve Renouf, believes the best is yet to be seen from Hegarty, who was recruited from NRL club Brisbane Broncos’ junior system.
‘‘I noticed when he first started he was just playing, I think, with what he was told to do,” Renouf said.
“He didn’t try to overplay his hand, which I thought was a real mature thing to do because knowing Bryce he naturally has an eye for the game, so he likes to do his own thing.
‘‘But he’s really been disciplined, working in with the play of the Rebels … and now I think what you’ll see, he’ll start to get a bit freer in his play. You’ll see a kid who’s a bit more confident and he’ll start playing to what’s in front of him and to take a few more chances.’’
Teammate and leadership group member Tom English said Hegarty’s growing confidence could be seen in his performances.
‘‘It shows out there on the field,’’ English said. ‘‘He’s really looking to take it to the line and he’s playing all options and his vision got better.’’
Rebels rugby operations manager Baden Stephenson said the 21-year-old, who has re-signed until the end of 2015, was also showing a more assertive attitude in training and team meetings.
But despite Hegarty’s improvement, which has contributed to the team’s better performances, and the presence of highly regarded back-up Jack Debreczeni, Stephenson confirmed the Rebels were still chasing an established inside back who can play five-eighth, although the emphasis has seemingly moved to adding depth to the ranks after the unsuccessful bids for the likes of Foley, Matt Toomua, Christian Lealiifano and reported interest in British and Irish Lions five-eighth James Hook and Queensland stalwart Mike Harris.
‘‘To Bryce’s credit, he has really developed as the year’s gone on and he’s been doing a good job for us,’’ Stephenson said.
‘‘Having said that, it’s probably fairly clear that we have been looking for a quality and experienced inside back to help the team and assist with our progression as a team.
‘‘Tony [McGahan] quite rightly mentions to Bryce and the team that the blowtorch is on, but that’s where you’re going to learn and the biggest thing for him and the team evolving this year is that we have to learn from our mistakes and keep making improvements.’’
Meanwhile, Rebels skipper Scott Higginbotham said young halfback Meehan would have no problems fitting straight into the side against the Waratahs.
‘‘He’s a confident young bloke and we love playing with him,’’ Higginbotham said.
Former Waratah Josh Holmes, who was drafted into the squad two weeks ago as injury cover, has been named on the bench.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.