Luke Douglas had a valid ‘leave pass’ to miss the first two days of pre-season training this week – he was in England watching younger brother Kane play for the Wallabies in the rugby World Cup.
After the Wallabies beat Scotland in the quarter-final ‘Dougie’ decided he did not want to miss seeing Kane play live in the semi-final against Argentina and organised to take his father Chris with him.
He checked with coach Neil Henry whether he could start training a few days late if the Australians made it to the final, and says it was a wonderful journey, although naturally quite emotional at times.
It was only two years ago when Luke, his mother Trish, Chris, younger brother Jake were in Europe to watch Kane play for the Wallabies when Trish had a stroke on a flight to Paris, leading to ill-health which saw her sadly pass away the following May.
This time the trip was a happier affair although it ended with the despair of Kane suffering an ACL injury that saw his appearance in the final against the All Blacks at Twickenham restricted to just 15 minutes, but Luke said he could not be prouder of Kane’s achievements.
“I’m very proud of him, he worked really hard and played in every match of the tournament,” Luke said after returning to training yesterday at Casuarina.
“He ended up playing 80 minutes in quite a few games including the quarter-final and semi-final. They started him in the first game and by the middle part of the competition he established his place in the starting line-up and the coach Michael Cheika showed a lot of faith him.
“He was a bit of controversial selection after coming back from Ireland and a few people doubted he should have been there. I knew he belonged and would do well.
“He came back pretty unfit because he hadn’t played for a while because of a back injury and had gone from the Waratahs grand final in 2014 to Leinster and then had to get back surgery.
“It has really inspired me to have a big season. I’ve had a disrupted off-season I suppose but I needed to rest the body too. To see him come from where he was to do so well on the big stage obviously has inspired me to make the most of next season.
“I just want to play my best, be consistent and help the young blokes out and who knows what’s possible if I do that.
“It was so good for Dad to experience what Kane achieved and if we really gel in the off-season and perform it would be great to give him some more joy.”
Luke and Chris stayed just near Twickenham and enjoyed spending some time with Kane and the other Wallabies and get an insider’s view of the Wallabies camp. They also did some sightseeing before returning for last Sunday’s final in front of more than 80,000 at Twickenham in London.
The players retained their jerseys used in each game, so when it came to the final Luke and Chris wore the genuine No. 4 jerseys to the semi-final and final.
And ‘Dougie’ is happy to admit he did some star-gazing. He sat just 20 metres from Argentina soccer legend Diego Maradona during the semi-final and not far from royals princes Phillip, William, Harry and Denmark’s Princes Frederick and Mary (a proud Aussie of course). He snapped a ‘selfie’ with the royals in the background for a souvenir.
“We were obviously pretty deflated when Kane did his ACL and went off after only 15 minutes; it was pretty tough for him to go down like that on the big stage in such a big occasion, he said.
“But the atmosphere was unbelievable, so good to hear all the Welsh and English supporters do their chants and songs.
“The whole section where we were got Waltzing Matilda going which was great, with the English recording it on their phones which was really cool.”
It has been a hectic off-season for Douglas – which ended with a 36-hour journey to get home after fog delayed their flight out of London and he had to go via Istanbul and Kuala Lumpur, organising new connecting flights spontaneously, and meant he and Chris left at lunchtime Monday London time and arrived in Brisbane lunchtime Wednesday.
Since returning from a week at Yamba with his father, Luke came back for the Titans’ awards night where he was awarded the Paul Broughton Medal before flying out early next morning for a belated honeymoon with wife Adele. It had to be cut short for five days so he could return to Sydney for the Dally M awards at which he won the Ken Stephen Medal.
The couple returned to the Gold Coast but returned to Sydney three days later for the NRL’s Community Awards, staying for the grand final on the Sunday. Two days later he had minor surgery on a toe injury that had inconvenienced him for several years, having some floating bone removed, and had to slot in some university study for exams before heading to London.
“It has been an interrupted off-season but I needed to give the body a rest,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting a good pre-season under my belt now and the 2016 season.”