Tearaway Manly Marlins No.8 Langi Gleeson will win his first starting cap on Sunday morning when he runs out for the Wallabies at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium against Wales.
It’s been a stellar and sky-rocketing journey for the 21-year-old who was playing for Marlins Colts in recent times, and for St Augustine’s and Harbord Harlequins not longer
A pre-season with former Warringah Rats mentor, now coach of NSW Waratahs, Darren Coleman, laid the foundation for Gleeson’s breakout season ’22.
“This year was my first preseason coming in,” Gleeson said.
“I thought it would be a walk in the park.
“I think we started a month earlier than expected.
“I was in a dark place with all the other boys in the Saturday morning beach sessions.”
After a last-minute call-up onto the bench against Scotland and a few minutes as a replacement during the infamous loss to Italy in Florence, Gleeson sat in the stands at Lansdowne Road and knew he was a chance when he saw Rob Valetini limp to the sidelines with an ankle injury.
“Unfortunate for him, but during the game I was thinking that all our main ball-runners are injured now,” Gleeson said.
“It feels pretty good. I didn’t expect it. With all the injuries I knew it was a possibility. I’m just excited. I haven’t played more than 10 minutes.”
It will be fascinating to see how Gleeson goes against a Welsh pack chastened by a 13-10 loss to minnows Georgia last week, the team once coached by former Marlins hooker Damien ‘Turtle’ Cummins.
Yet as Marlins team-mate James Hilterbrand explained to the Beaches Champion it’s the Welshmen who should be worried.
When Gleeson was first picked in the Wallabies squad three months ago, Hilterbrand described the 21-year-old as “a physical freak”.
“He’s got an engine that can go for 80 minutes. He’s the fastest over 40 metres at the Waratahs. They stopped him in the gym from lifting so heavy; he was already strong enough,” Hilterbrand said.
Gleeson is not officially the fastest at the Waratahs. But one day he was.
At a training session – with some fast guys not there – Gleeson ran a time equal with the Waratahs winger Dylan Pietsch for the 40m dash.
For a man who’s 188cm and 107kg, it turned some heads.
Marlins and Waratahs team-mate Max Douglas confirmed Gleeson’s sprint times and gym numbers as literally unbelievable.
“When he first started punching numbers in the [Waratahs] Academy, Rugby Australia called up the Tahs to check.
“They thought there’d been a mistake.” Douglas told the Beaches Champion.
Wales Australia will kick-off on Sunday 2:15am on Stan Sport.