Flexible Cusack deal a long play for Brumbies

UPDATED: A new two-year deal for Brumbies flanker Tom Cusack that allows him to split time between Super Rugby and Sevens is all about planning for the future at the Brumbies, coach Dan McKellar says.

With David Pocock still undecided on his rugby future, and looking increasingly likely to be in his final Super Rugby season, the Brumbies have looked to shore up their backrow stocks.

On top of re-signing Cusack, in-form no. 8 Locky McCaffrey is believed to be in discussions about extending his contract for another season while Waratahs flanker Will MIller has reportedly been in the ACT’s sights.

While McKellar stopped short of confirming any pursuit of MIller, he admitted they needed to be looking long-term.

“You’ve always got to be thinking about the future. If you’re not, then you’ll get yourself into trouble,” he said.

“It’s why we brought our academy back and it’s all about building sustainable success here.

“The beauty of myself and the staff being renewed and extended means that we’ve got that benefit.

“We can think about where the club’s going to be sitting in three years’ time instead of just worrying about the next couple of weeks.

“We certainly worry about the next couple of weeks, this week in particular, but you’ve always got to have an eye for the future.”

Pocock is off-contract at the end of 2019 and McKellar said he was yet to make a call on his next step, but at 30 and with a third World Cup soon to be under his belt, an overseas move shapes as a possibility for the flanker.

Cusack has followed former Sevens teammate Michael Wells in signing a split contract, allowing him to return to the Aussie Sevens after the 2019 season in a bid for an Olympic berth.

The 26-year-old cut his teeth in the truncated format of the game, playing for Australia in the 2016 Rio Olympics, before chasing a XVs switch.

Cusack made his Sevens debut in 2013, playing in the bronze medal-winning Glasgow 2014 team and finished as Australia’s leading try scorer in Rio, despite a disappointing eighth-place finish.

He has become a valuable part of the Brumbies outfit in recent seasons and has stepped up in the absence of injured superstar David Pocock this year.

Cusack’s retention beyond this season will be critical for the Brumbies, who look likely to lose  Pocock after this season with the star flanker still mulling his rugby future.

The backrower said he was grateful for the flexible arrangement.

“It’s fantastic to have signed a new contract at the club that will allow me to fulfil both my Super Rugby and Olympic ambitions,” Cusack commented.

“It was an easy decision for me to stay in Canberra with the calibre of management and players that we have here. That quality has enabled myself to develop my game further.

“This is an exciting time in my career and I am looking forward to developing as a player in both formats.”

Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said he was glad to see the Canberra product stick with the Brumbies.

“We are happy that Tom has committed to the Brumbies,” McKellar said.

“He is a Canberra boy who has come through our pathway system and developed into an important member of the Brumbies squad.

“He’s a quality young bloke who is developing into a very good leader and has performed consistently for the Brumbies over the past two seasons. We are looking forward to seeing how Tom continues to develop as a top-quality back-rower.”

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Cusack is not the first Super Rugby player to try and juggle both formats and Aussie Sevens coach Tim Walsh has been open about his willingness to give XVs players opportunities for a switch.

Wells was with the Sevens for the start of the 2018-19 World Series and is deciding whether to do the same next season.

Henry Speight also did a similar stint ahead of the Rio games but injury hindered his chances of a start.

New Zealand’s Sonny Bill Williams is probably the most high-profile player to have done both, featuring for the Kiwis in Rio but an injury cruelled his  Olympic tournament.

The Brumbies take on the Sunwolves on Saunday May 12, kicking off at 4:05pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Kayo Sports and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.