Melbourne Rebels Vice-Captain Matt To’omua has a special reason to celebrate this weekend’s return of Australian rugby, with the flyhalf bringing up his 100th Super Rugby cap.
Fittingly, To’omua will reach the personal milestone against his former side, in the city where he first began his professional playing career as a wide-eyed teenager.
Despite the unusual circumstances surrounding the season to date, To’omua says it will be special moment notching his century at GIO Stadium, the place where his Super Rugby journey first began back in 2008.
“It’s odd because I think we’re all just excited to play - it’s not like I need any more extra motivation or anything like that,” said To’omua.
“But it has dawned on me a little bit; a little bit fitting coming back here and having it as well.
“I told Allan (Alaalatoa) I want a long speech and a present from the Brumbies to mark my contribution to the club.
“Everyone always says it’s not about personal milestones and that stuff and it’s a little bit true but I’m sure I’ll reflect on it a little bit later.”
A professional playing career spanning more than thirteen years, To’omua’s ridden an incredible ride of both personal sporting success and heartbreak.
However, the 30-year-old says he wouldn’t change a thing and remains grateful for the memories and experiences the game of rugby has brought him in his career.
“It’s been wild - I’m quite thankful to be honest with all the opportunities rugby has given me.
“I still remember my first year sitting in business class with Stirling Mortlock; I didn’t sleep a wink because I was terrified of him you know - he’s an odd cat.
“But then coming here and you see the young guys excited about certain bits and I’ve probably become a bit desensitised to it and it makes you realise what a special ride it is.
“It’s hard to not be reflective every now and then but it’s been a special ride, that’s for sure.”
Despite facing one of the form sides of the now reconfigured Super Rugby competition, To’omua says he’s excited by the opening round challenge, subscribing to the belief that with a fresh new competition, “anyone can beat anyone.”
“You have to think that way. “When this new competition happened, the Waratahs were pretty happy we were all starting fresh on zero points, the Brumbies were pretty filthy, and we were pretty ambivalent.
“If you look at the competition you probably think Brumbies away is one of the tougher matches and we’ve got that Round 1 and that gets you going, which is good.
“We ended the Super Rugby comp with a little bit of form and probably felt we were starting to build into it, so if we were really in a bit of form and we really do believe we were doing a few things right, then it should show through this.”
This weekend’s derby will also showcase the budding rivalry between To’omua and emerging Brumbies star Noah Lolesio, with both players vying for the vacant Wallabies No.10 spot.
Embracing the competition, To’omua says he’s set on getting his revenge after the youngster got the better of the two earlier this year.
“I think he’s been great. “In Round 2 against us, it was probably one of his better games and fair play, they outplayed us, and he outplayed me that game.
“It’s exciting from an Australian fan point of view but from my point of view, there’s a bit of competition there now.”