Will McCulloch shows development pathway alive and well at Norths

Norths outside back Will McCulloch has been picked in just about every rep team possible over the past 24 months.

But that didn’t help his nerves as he waited for a call from Junior Wallabies coach Nathan Grey this week to find out if he’d been selected in Australia’s squad to play at the U20s World Cup in South Africa.

“I was pretty nervous waiting for the call, so it was good to hear his voice” McCulloch told Rugby News.

“I’ve tried to imagine myself in this position, to play for Australia at a World Cup, but for it to be happening now, it’s all pretty surreal.

“I got a taste of it at the Rugby Championships on the Sunshine Coast but now to be going to South Africa, I can’t wait.”

McCulloch is living proof that things are on the up at Hugh Courtney Oval.

The 20-year old, who’s father played at Brothers, joined Norths as a 7-year old and has played all his rugby at the club, outside of a season in rugby league with the Redcliffe Dolphins shortly after finishing school.

McCulloch returned to play colts in 2022 and has been a standout for the Eagles ever since. He was picked in the QLD U18s and Australian U18s sides that year and joined the Reds academy soon after.

“I really missed playing union and when I came back and started playing colts, things just sort of clicked for me,” McCulloch said.

“Dan (Ritchie) was coaching colts and Bart (Ritchie), Craig Mulholland and Kearnsy were all involved. They’ve all graduated to grade now as well.

“Even back then, you could see what Dan and the club were trying to do and the plans they had in place and it’s great to see some of that starting to come to fruition.

“The club has just launched an elite academy to try and keep more local players playing at Norths rather than going to other clubs and you can see things starting to turn, there’s a real buzz around the place.”

After making his Premier Grade debut and starring for Queensland’s underage rep sides, McCulloch attracted plenty of attention from rival clubs, but said he never seriously considered leaving Norths.

“It’s been a bit of a running theme for a while that when players start playing well at Norths and get some attention, they leave and go and play for another club,” the winger said.

"But when I looked at it, if I was to go and do that like others have, then nothing would change. I want to be part of what is building here and hopefully some of the younger kids pushing through notice that I’ve been able to make some of these teams without having to leave Norths.

“If we can keep more local players playing at Norths and boost our depth and numbers, the results will come because we know we’ve got more than enough talent up here.”

While Norths’ Premier Grade side is still a work in progress, McCulloch said he was confident in the direction the club is heading.

“You can feel things turning, absolutely. Sides are getting a few more wins and when they’re losing, they are staying in the fight,” he said.

“It might not be this year, but next year and in the years to follow you can definitely feel that something big is building and it’s going to be special to be a part of.”

McCulloch will travel to Sydney for a training camp next week before departing for South Africa.

The Junior Wallabies will more than likely need to win all three of their pool matches, starting on June 29, but the outside back said he’s confident the squad is good enough to push deep into the annual tournament.

“You can’t take any of the game easy. Georgia, Italy and Ireland are all going to be very big sides and they’ll all be tough to beat.

“But we believe we’ve got what it takes to give the competition a real shake and we’re really excited to get over there and give it our best."

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