Carys Dallinger: Our Accidental Wallaroo

Carys Dallinger reflects on facing her home nation. Photo: Getty Images
Carys Dallinger reflects on facing her home nation. Photo: Getty Images

Carys Dallinger was in the Kiwi minority who enjoyed Vegemite and celebrated Quade Cooper which makes perfect sense now she’s a proud Buildcorp Wallaroo.

Even Australia’s accidental Wallaroo can see those quirks of her upbringing in a fresh light now she is cherishing a rare opportunity.

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The chance discovery that her father was born in Melbourne has quickly written an “Aussie Carys” script for the skilful playmaker with the sharp pass and assured kicking game.

The blonde flyhalf has been on a rapid rollercoaster for the past three months and the thrills just keep on coming.

Facing the world champion Black Ferns at Brisbane’s Kayo Stadium on Thursday is something she never imagined.

“If you’d told me three months ago, I’d be lining up for the Wallaroos against the haka I’d have laughed in your face … ‘what are you on about?’,” Dallinger said.

“Now, I’m riding the wave and can’t wait to play against the best.

“It’s probably the most nervous I’ve ever been but also the most excited.”

Emotions have come in a rush since Dallinger was seated next to Queensland Reds coach Simon Craig on a Sydney-Brisbane flight in April during the Super W season.

“He was like a possum caught in the headlights when I said ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if…’,” Dallinger said of the moment she told Craig of her Aussie heritage.

In a thick Kiwi accent, she started telling her story that father Steve was actually born in Melbourne even though she’d spent her young life growing up in Palmerston North in the heart of Manawatu.

Dallinger had assumed she was an international player for Super W purposes so, basically, filled out “from New Zealand” on her documentation.   

Craig is a sharp thinker. He was straight on the phone to Sam Cordingley, the Reds General Manager-Professional Rugby, to fix her eligibility.

“It was a joyous moment. We’d assumed Carys was a born-and-bred NZ girl,” Craig said.

“She has a real Rugby brain and those skills you get from playing since you were seven or eight-years-old.”

Rugby fans took notice in late April when she starred in the Reds’ thrilling semi-final win over the ACT Brumbies when she potted the nerveless penalty goal to win it after plenty of slick handling.

She also found time for a hitout with her new Brisbane club Easts. Sure enough, she made her mark there too. Her late penalty goal attempt from 42m out with seconds left on the clock hit the crossbar and bounced over for the win against Bond University. 

The whirlwind of these recent months has swept her along. She’s had to make some big Rugby decisions as well as uproot her life in NZ. 

She made her debut for the Wallaroos in the 22-5 win over Fijiana in May with her bedroom, her dog Chase and most of her belongings still in the family home in Palmerston North.

“I’ve admired Quade Cooper, his step and what he can do on the field for as long as I can remember,” Dallinger said.

“Now, here I am, doing the same thing (in leaving NZ to play in Australia).

“For me, I come from a little town. I’m just really excited that I’m able to broaden my horizons, meet new people and take on new challenges. It’s new everything, basically.

“I packed up properly when I was able to fly back to NZ before this latest Wallaroos camp. I had a farewell dinner, gave Mum my Hurricanes Poua jersey and she was in tears sending me off.

“I think a lot of family and friends have worked out their allegiance … they’ll support the Wallaroos but the All Blacks at the same time.”

What has grounded her through this whole upheaval has been how readily she has been accepted by her new Wallaroos squad mates.

“(Lock) Annabelle Codey will try to do a Kiwi accent every time she sees me. It’s a terrible attempt but it’s good banter,” Dallinger said with a laugh.

“As soon as I got into my first camp, the camaraderie shown by the girls was instant. I wasn’t made to feel like an outsider or a rookie at all. That was very reassuring. The NSW Waratahs girls had been enemies on the field for the Reds and given me a bit of banter about ‘getting back to NZ.’ They are now some of my best friends in the team. Like I said, being a close group is something I really like.”   

Facing Black Ferns like halfback Iritana Hohaia and Ayesha Leti-I’iga, both former Hurricanes team-mates, will make Thursday’s Test more personal.

“I’ll scan my opponents, show my respect, let them know they have been heard and accept the challenge that the haka lays down,” Dallinger said.

She’ll also have the words to Advance Australia Fair ingrained a little more after swotting up in the days before the Fijiana Test in May.

“My roommate (lock) Sera Naiqama put the words on the TV screen for me so I could rehearse in our hotel room. I think I’ll be singing the words with a bit more soul this time,” Dallinger said with a smile. 

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