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Goromaru embraces opportunity with Queensland Reds

by

Staff Writer

Though he received widespread media exposure following his success at last fall’s Rugby World Cup, Ayumu Goromaru is a man of few words, at least publicly.

He’s not reluctant to make media appearances. He’ll do it to promote the sport. But he just doesn’t like to talk nonsense and comment on what hasn’t happened yet.

Goromaru kept the same demeanor on Friday evening, hours before traveling to Brisbane, Australia, to join the Queensland Reds. He didn’t give many details on what he’d do in his new environment.

Of course, he promised that he’d give 100 percent once he hit the field, though.

“Time really flies, but today I’m heading down to Australia,” said Goromaru, who was acquired by the Super League club last November, at a news conference at Narita airport. “I don’t know how much I can do as a rugby player and contribute to the team. But I’d like to play my own game.”

Goromaru, a World Cup hero for former coach Eddie Jones on the Japan national rugby union team, said that his first and only priority is to make sure he’ll be good enough to don a Reds jersey, which he didn’t think would be guaranteed automatically.

“I’m not going to foresee too far ahead,” Goromaru, 29, said, when asked what he wants to do in Australia. “But I’ll take care of what I have under my nose, and I’ll practice hard, thinking of putting on the jersey, first.”

Goromaru was quite realistic and discreet about his future with the Reds, who finished 13th (out of 15 clubs) in the 2015 Super Rugby season.

“People may have great expectations (of me joining the team),” said Goromaru, who’s played for the Yamaha Jubilo in Japan’s Top League. “But Super Rugby isn’t that easy. I know I’ll face a variety of errors and struggles, but I’d like to contribute to the team as quickly as I can.”

Brisbane is a large city, whose metropolitan area has a population of about 2.3 million, with attractive, scenic areas. But Goromaru insisted that he isn’t going there for leisure. Instead, his focus is tackling opponents, kicking the ball and winning games for the Reds.

“I don’t think I’ll have time to rest,” Goromaru said. “I’ll just focus on practicing.”

Goromaru said the Reds expect him to make an impact with goal kicks and penalty kicks. Last year, he had a 84.21 percent success rate and was the scoring leader with 83 points in the Top League.

He was selected to the Rugby World Cup Dream Team, and now for Queensland he’ll compete at fullback along with Karmichael Hunt.

Reds head coach Richard Graham recognizes that Goromaru has proven abilities. He told the Sydney Morning Herald that “there’s no doubt he’s a quality footballer, he’s done it on the world stage.”

Graham plans to monitor’s Goromaru’s physical condition and performance before determining how he’ll utilize the Fukuoka-born player.

“I’ll make that decision when he arrives, have a look at him physically, how he’s handled the World Cup and also the Japanese season, and then how he comes into the squad and how quickly he pick things up,” Graham was quoted as saying.

Goromaru embraces this challenge, which opens a new chapter in his rugby career.

“I belong to Yamaha, and had I stayed with Yamaha, not taking any challenges somewhere else, I would’ve pretty much been guaranteed a position there,” Goromaru said. “But I thought that it’d bring an impact on my rugby career with the new challenge in which my position isn’t secured.”

Goromaru said that before he left Iwata, Shizuoka Prefecture, where Yamaha is based, the Jubilo players staged a sandlot baseball game as a farewell for him.

“That’s been our dream to play baseball on a holiday,” joked Goromaru, who played as an outfielder in the contest. (Yamaha’s public relations officer revealed that Goromaru’s team took the initial lead, but was handed a walk-off loss.)

Goromaru is scheduled to arrive in Brisbane on Saturday and watch a Reds preseason game against the Crusaders at Ballymore Stadium that night.

The Reds will open their 2016 Super Rugby season against the Waratahs on Feb. 27 in Sydney. They will host the league debutant Sunwolves of Japan on May 21 at Suncorp Stadium.

“I’m excited to play against the Sunwolves,” said Goromaru, who’s expected to attend an introductory news conference on Monday. “Not just me, but I hope Japanese fans look forward to it as well. And I’d definitely like to play in it.”