Tom Wright got the chance to do a playmaker apprenticeship under Daly Cherry-Evans, but the chance to play alongside Christian Lealiifano is the thing that gets him really excited.
Wright is four weeks into his rugby union comeback after deciding to step out from under Cherry-Evans' wings in the NRL to take a chance in Super Rugby.
The former Australian schoolboy star is keen to test his development when the ACT Brumbies play their first trial match on January 26 and he hopes he can win a spot to partner Lealiifano in the halves.
Wright has been spending the bulk of his four weeks of training at either flyhalf or inside centre, putting him in contention to fill the vacant No. 12 jersey when the Super Rugby season begins.
He says learning from Manly skipper Cherry-Evans gave him the chance to lay the groundwork for being a key playmaker and a partnership with Lealiifano looms next year.
"[Cherry-Evans] is still one of my friends and won of the biggest things I learnt from him was his man management – the way to get the best out of people and yourself," said Wright, who spent Saturday recruiting Brumbies members at the Canberra Outlet Centre.
"He's a really thorough training, he doesn't just go out there to go through the motions. He will have a mindset of what he wants to get out of each session.
"He's been at the top of the game for a number of years now … I took a lot from him about how to play footy and how to play your best footy."
Lealiifano is in Japan and will return to Brumbies training in January when the rest of the clubs senior players get back to Canberra.
But he has been keeping an eye on the team's development from afar, watching with interest as Wright, Irae Simone and Jordan Jackson-Hope battle for starting spots.
"He's checked in with the side and he's been keeping an eye on a lot of the training footage we get online," Wright said.
"He's going to come back and really know exactly where we're at, and where he can influence us. He's been in touch with the whole group, he'll be a huge addition steering the ship.
"From everything I've heard, and I've spoken to him one or twice, he's been around a while and has come out the other side of a pretty hard time. To come back to the top of the game shows a lot of resilience and I'm just eager to rub shoulders with him and take a bit of knowledge from him."
The Brumbies have one more week of training left before being sent away on a two-week Christmas break.
Their Super Rugby preparation will be disrupted by a 10-day Wallabies camp, but they will play trials against the Melbourne Rebels on Australia Day and the NSW Waratahs in Goulburn on February 7.
Chris Dutton is the sports editor at The Canberra Times.
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