Beale’s greatest legacy came off the field
Kurtley Beale's prodigious natural talent has always been both a blessing and a curse.
As Beale prepares to cut ties with the Waratahs and relocate to Europe, Wallaby legend Tim Horan said Australian rugby fans should stop and count themselves lucky the gifted utility back stuck with union when he could easily have gone elsewhere.
"Rugby should be very thankful and proud that he stayed because he could have been another lost to rugby league," Horan told News Corp.
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"To have him play three World Cups and win a Super Rugby title with the Waratahs and achieve all those other things is a big legacy for him as a person but also as a code."
Beale's flair on the field took him to heights other mere mortals could only dream of during his long career with the Waratahs and the Wallabies: a World Cup final, two Rugby Championships and a John Eales Medal as Australia's player of the year.
But the 31-year-old was also never really given the full credit he deserved for his achievements, partly because he was so skilled as a teenager that he set the benchmark so high for himself.
Horan said Beale did everything that was expected of him and more.
"There's a lot of players that struggle to deliver post school but Kurtley certainly delivered and he was a joy to watch and to commentate on," the Fox Sports expert said.
"He's one of those very few players in the game that fathers wanted to take their sons along to watch because he's so outstanding."
Beale's career isn't finished yet but one chapter is about to come to a close after he requested an early release from his current Waratahs contract before the start of the new domestic Super Rugby competition.
Sources said the paperwork has still not been signed but is a formality and will be done later this week, which will allow Beale to rest up before joining French club Racing 92 later this year on a two-year deal.
He will be available for selection for the Wallabies under the Giteau Law but his days for NSW are over, for now.
"He'll be incredibly missed around the team because not only is he a great player but Kurtley's a real character and one of the funniest people I've ever met," said former Waratahs hooker Damien Fitzpatrick, who announced his own retirement last week.
"I played with KB at school and from the first moment I saw him it was obvious that he was just a remarkable player who could dominate on the field but still had a great passion to improve.
"I don't think people really appreciate the pressure he's been under to deliver at every level but he's done it year after year so deserves all the accolades and championships that have come his way."
Contracted by the Waratahs when he was still a pupil at Sydney's St Joseph's College, Beale made his Super Rugby as an 18-year-old in 2007 and has gone on to become NSW's most capped player and a key part of the side that won the title in 2014.
He was picked for his Test debut in 2009 and in just his second season for the Wallabies, he landed an unforgettable last-minute penalty to give Australia its first win in 47 years at altitude in South Africa.
"That's my favourite Kurtley moment," two-time World Cup winner Phil Kearns said.
"That wasn't Kurtley running and jinking and beating 10 defenders to score but it was Kurtley under enormous pressure to win a test match with a kick from near the sideline at halfway.
"But for me, I think one of Kurtley's greatest legacies is getting the Wallabies to wear the indigenous jersey because he was the driving force behind that and that's been a fantastic thing for Australian rugby that everyone's really proud of."
KURTLEY BEALE'S RUGBY TIMELINE
2007 - Made his debut for the Waratahs as an 18-year-old
2009 - Made his debut for the Wallabies
2010 - Kicked the winning penalty in Australia's 41-39 win over the Springboks
2011 - Won the John Eales Medal as Australia's Player of the Year
2012-13 - Spent two seasons with the Melbourne Rebels
2014 - Played in the Waratahs side that won the Super Rugby title
2015 - Played in the Wallabies team that reached the World Cup final
2020 - Captained the Waratahs for the first time, became NSW's most capped player in Super Rugby
Originally published as Beale's greatest legacy came off the field