Humbled by the chance to revive his Wallabies career, Kurtley Beale insists he’s finally learned from his mistakes and is on the path of transformation from bad boy to role model.
The controversial utility made his international comeback off the bench in the 26-23 loss to Ireland in Dublin on Saturday, his first appearance since the text message scandal that rocked Australian rugby and threatened to end his career.
Beale credited the support of his family, teammates and “father figure” Michael Cheika for getting him back to the international stage.
And while he accepts there are many who feel he shouldn’t be in the team, he stressed he wasn’t taking his latest career lifeline for granted.
“It was a proud moment,” Beale said of his return.
“I know I’ve been working really hard to get where I am today and I’m very grateful that I got the opportunity to go out there.”
Beale was fined $45,000 for sending a lewd text to former ARU staff member Di Patston, with the scandal ultimately leading to the resignation of former coach Ewen McKenzie.
It followed a long line of off-field indiscretions but Beale says his past will ultimately make him a better person and player.
“There’s always criticism. But I made a mistake and I owned up to it,” Beale said.
“I was very remorseful for my actions and I didn’t think I was going to get away with it.
“I’ve had, in the past, a fair few indiscretions and that’s definitely helped me understand the important things and value in life that I need to uphold.
“I want to try and be a role model for these young kids, especially indigenous kids.
“I’m a very proud indigenous man and I do see myself one day trying to be – it’d be silly to say perfect because no one’s really perfect – but to try and be that role model that young kids can strive to be.”
Beale denied his actions in the scandal reflected a poor attitude towards women, saying his mother Kathy, grandmother Norma and girlfriend Maddi Blomberg were among the most influential in his life and played an important role in getting him back to where he is.
He also cited the faith shown in him by Wallabies and Waratahs coach Cheika as a huge motivator in his quest for redemption.
“He’s played a massive role. Almost like a father figure,” said Beale, who was lured to the Waratahs by Cheika at the start of the year following a troubled stint with the Melbourne Rebels.
“He showed the faith and belief in me at the start of this year and it’s something I need to give back.”
Beale said he was “very close” to finalising ARU contract negotiations for next year but his immediate focus was on Australia’s spring tour finale against England at Twickenham next week.
Cheika was happy with Beale’s contribution off the bench after replacing injured centre Tevita Kuridrani early in the second half.
Kuridrani is in doubt for next week’s Test due to an ankle injury, putting Beale in the frame for a possible start as Australia look to prevent their worst European tour performance in nine years.