It’s not often you would find a New South Welshmen cheering on the boys, north of the border, but as Ed Craig ran out for the Queensland Reds on Saturday night his students from Sydney’s Barker College had something to celebrate.
Despite harbouring ambitions for a Super Rugby contract the phone hadn’t rung in 2020 meaning that Craig, a second year teacher would continue plying his trade as a PE and Christian Education teacher at Barker College.
However, a bit of luck meant the 2014 Australian Schools player and current Barker 14As coach was plucked from his Sydney classroom to join the Reds on an indefinite contract less than three weeks ago.
In Round One of the Super Rugby competition one Test Wallaby, Brandon Paenga-Amosa suffered ankle ligament damage leaving the Reds with only one experienced hooker. Up the creek with just one paddle, the 113kg frame of Craig drew the eye of Queensland Head Coach Brad Thorn and scrum doctor Cameron Lillicrap (ASRU 1980/81) who booked him a flight to Johannesburg as a standby option for the team in Round Two.
While a debut didn’t ensue while on tour against either the Lions or the Jaguares, in front of family at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night the 23-year-old came on, replacing hooker Alex Mafi (ASRU 2013) in the 62nd minute much to the delight of his students in Sydney.
Not coming from an elite rugby school himself Craig had worked hard to find himself in the side for the matchup against the Japanese Sunwolves.
He played his junior football with the Hillview Rugby Club (now Central Eastwood) and Epping Boys High School in Sydney’s North West. There he played three years in the schools 1st XV from 2012 to 2014.
In 2013, whilst still in grade 11 he was selected in the Combined States for the Australian Schools Championships. The following year he won the Championships with NSW I alongside the likes of Aussie 7s star Henry Hutchinson and NSW Blues talent Angus Crichton.
A standout performance as part of the undefeated side triggered his selection into the Australian Schools team which initially included the man he has been signed to hook with at the Reds, Alex Mafi.
In an ironic twist of fate Mafi suffered the same ankle ligament damage Paenga-Amosa’s is currently recovering from prior to the 2014 tour and did not travel to New Zealand.
Craig showed his worth in schoolboy green and gold displaying promise in both his sides win against Fiji Schools and loss to New Zealand Schools.
Following the tour Craig was awarded the Volvo Australian Schools Rugby Scholarship for his efforts both on the field and off it as a leader in the school and community.
Since graduating from Epping Boys High School he has shown his worth growing into a sizeable forward for Eastwood earning 52 Shute Shield caps in the process. On top of this he picked up opportunities with the Australian U20s in 2016, NRC contracts in 2017 and 2019 before his biggest break last Saturday night in Super Rugby.
Ed’s appearance in the Reds big 64 – 5 win over the Japanese side was very positive and while the length of Ed’s contract with the Reds is uncertain the ASRU wishes him the best of luck as his career in the professional ranks gets off the ground.