Olympics the ‘big goal’ but affable Maddocks content running around for beloved Beasties
By Matt Findlay
After making his international debut at the Paris Sevens earlier this month Will Maddocks, naturally, has an eye on representing Australia at next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games, saying “that would just be amazing”.
Maddocks is as affable and unassuming bloke as you’d ever hope to meet though so despite not looking out of place and scoring with his first touch in green and gold, it’s an opportunity he’s hopeful of earning rather than expectant.
In fact, typical of his humble nature, when speaking with Rugby News this week the 25-year-old provided a refreshingly candid perspective on potentially earning a berth at the 2020 Olympics.
“The Olympics is what everyone in the sport and the Aussie program is looking forward to now and that’s definitely the big goal, for sure, but looking at that one I got a go in … we couldn’t qualify (for the Olympics) so I think they took a gamble and just sort of threw me in there,” Maddocks said.
“It was just great though. At the time I was just happy I hadn’t buggered it up, it was a relief but once I came off the field I sort of thought ‘oh, yeah, that was pretty cool’.
”I’ve played for Australia and scored a try now, it’s definitely something I’m very happy with.
“Obviously there’s a lot of good players so I’m not really sure where I’ll be going back into it in the pre-season, but hopefully I’ll be in and around there somewhere.
“But I’ve had that experience now and I definitely feel a bit more compelled to get out there and compete with the guys, and see what happens.”
It’s not just Maddocks that faces a tough task in earning a spot at the Olympics, the entire Australian side does.
Because they finished outside the top four and didn’t earn automatic qualification, they’re now forced to tackle the Oceania qualifying tournament in Fiji in November.
Fiji, England, New Zealand and South Africa claimed the first four available spots.
For the moment though Maddocks is happy enough running around in his beloved Eastern Suburbs’ colours, he ran from the bench last week and will start at fullback in second grade against Southern Districts this weekend.
For Maddocks, who “grew up at the club”, playing for Easts is something to relish and he said he’ll don the Beasties jersey as long as he’s cleared to this year, before heading back to the Aussies’ camp.
“I grew up with Easts, my brother Jack and I were ball boys there when I was young, we spent hours down there growing up and I’ve played every grade there so it’s a big part of my life. It’s always good to get back down there and have a run whenever I can, I’ll play as much as I’m allowed to this year,” Maddocks said.
The heights Maddocks has reached in the game are remarkable considering his battle with cancer during his formative years, that fight is no secret.
He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma at the tender age of 15, his fight and recovery having the spotlight thrown on it after his rise through the sevens ranks and then Easts’ second grade grand final win last year too.
Looking back on that battle Maddocks, unsurprisingly confirmed there was times when rugby, sport in general and even a normal life were a long way from the forefront of his mind.
But once he went into remission after roughly five rounds of treatment – he went on to hit the all-important five-year milestone in 2015 – a return to the field seemed inevitable for a kid who grew up with a ball, or bat, in his hand.
He played in the 10th XV in year 12 and then moved into Easts’ system after finishing school, he’s since played in every grade at the Beasties.
“I always thought I had something to offer but obviously there was a period there where higher honours or anything like that wasn’t a focus,” he explained.
“Once I got through it I thought I’d bounce back pretty quickly but it obviously took a long time to catch up, physically, to where I thought I would be.
“Out of school I was in thirds colts and then first year of grade I was fourths and fifths so I obviously wasn’t rocketing up the ranks but I always felt really confident in my skill-set.
“It was just about developing the physicality and confidence to move up and then when I did, I just had to take my chances.”
He heaped praise on younger brother Jack, who’s praise of and pride in Will’s strength has also been well-publicised, through that battle but in terms of his development on-field too.
“It did always help having guys like Jack around who were playing really good rugby and, I guess, showing you where you needed to be,” Maddocks said.
Of course he’s just as proud of his brother, who’s now earned six international caps for the Wallabies, as vice-versa, too.
“It’s funny with Jack because growing up he was such a good cricketer and we all thought that was the way he was going to go,” Maddocks said.
“Through the space of maybe a year or 18 months he grew a bit, got a bit more interested in rugby and started playing some really good footy.
“While he was still playing rep cricket I don’t think anyone expected too much from him, just to play colts twos or something but he ended up in colt firsts, went in and had a blinder of a season, got picked in NSW 20s then Australian 20s.
“Next thing you know he’s signed with the Rebels, the rest is history.
“The biggest thing that always impressed me with Jack is whatever it happens to be – rugby, cricket or whatever – whenever he goes up to that next stage when you think he might get gun-shy he seems to take to it seamlessly.
“When we younger he’d always come to my rugby training or cricket training and you wouldn’t expect too much but he’d just do it all so easily.
‘He was always pretty special that way.
“He always steps up when he needs to, which is a great quality to have and I’m a very, very proud brother.”