McGahan finally visible in build-up to Reds’ debut
KIWI recruit Matt McGahan has finally shed his guise as the Reds' invisible man with his first 40 minutes of club rugby after four months repairing a broken leg.
When Queensland coach Brad Thorn announced last November that he'd snapped up a flyhalf of promising pedigree, it was expected he'd be in the mix for the season lift-off.
That all changed when McGahan, 25, cracked the large bone in his left leg when a rival fell awkwardly on it in his final game for Japanese club Yamaha Jubilo.
He has been a regular presence at Ballymore since December as that largely anonymous figure doing rehabilitation work on the far sideline while the Reds rip into training.
"It's good to feel like a normal rugby player again with my hands on the footy and sore shoulders from tackling when a new week starts," McGahan said.
His 40-minute comeback for Norths in Premier Rugby last Saturday definitely tested his sturdiness in defence in a 33-14 loss to an Isaac Lucas-charged Sunnybank.
"Time in the saddle organising in game scenarios is not something you can get in training," McGahan said.
"With the Reds away, I've got some good club rugby to play to try and put my hand up for when the team returns."
The son of former New Zealand rugby league international Hugh McGahan played for the Auckland-based Blues in 2015-16 and always wanted another crack at Super Rugby.
When back to full sharpness, he will be a useful asset once the Reds return from matches against the Bulls in Pretoria on Sunday morning and the Sharks in Durban on Friday week.
It was talking to Thorn on a Skype call that convinced him to take the plunge at the Reds.
"Just listening to him sealed the deal for me because I know the respect he has in New Zealand and what he's done in rugby league," McGahan said.
"He's someone you want to learn from and the camaraderie I've found at the Reds, and the focus on individual athlete development, is something I'm enjoying."
Thorn has made a habit of recruiting players from a league background at Under-20s level or it may just be that good basics in defence are one of his non-negotiables.
Flyhalf Bryce Hegarty came in this season with under-20s mileage at the Brisbane Broncos before his Super Rugby days.
McGahan has done similar, flipping from the NZ Schoolboys' side to the Melbourne Storm at Under-20s level.
"You learn pretty quickly that there's nowhere to hide in rugby league with the physicality so you put up or shut up," McGahan said.
"Another big one was becoming a better communicator because guys like Cameron Smith constantly organise and motivate through games."