When Bryce Hegarty arrived at the Queensland Reds in 2019 one of his main desires was to crack the mould of the Mr Fix-It utility.
As Reece Hodge or Adam Ashley-Cooper will tell you, once a utility, always a utility because that versatility is priceless in modern rugby line-ups.
Three seasons shifting between flyhalf, fullback, super-sub and even wing roles have delivered him to a worthy milestone tonight.
Hegarty will celebrate his 100th Super Rugby appearance in this crunch clash against the Brumbies.
Win at “Fortress Suncorp” for a 10th straight time and the Reds will have booked Suncorp Stadium for the final on May 8.
Hegarty, 28, is coming off his best game of the season at fullback in last weekend’s clear-cut win over the Melbourne Rebels.
He tidied up a potentially dangerous kick in the opening minute with Marika Koroibete bearing down on him, kicked well and was assured throughout.
After stints with the Melbourne Rebels and NSW Waratahs, Hegarty feels he’s home at the Reds.
“It’s a cool thing to play 100 games and to do so at Suncorp Stadium in front of family and friends adds to that proud feeling,” Hegarty said.
“I grew up in Samford, went to school in Brisbane... Queensland is my home state.”
Having parents Wendy and Steve in the stands, along with partner Caitlin Bierling, will magnify the satisfaction tonight.
Hegarty has felt how ingrained the Queenslander vibe has become within this Reds team with so many players growing up together from State U20s teams.
“Each of the Super Rugby clubs I’ve played for have been very different,” he said.
“I was the youngest when I started at the Rebels (2013-15) and came into a NSW Waratahs team (2016-18) with a lot of senior players.
“I was only 26 when I came to the Reds but was already one of the oldest.
“There was the expectation of being a leader which I liked and had learnt from the other clubs.”
Hegarty grew up playing rugby league for the Samford Stags but his rugby education at Marist College Ashgrove grooved his adaptability.
He learnt playing in Brisbane Broncos U20s side and from big figures in the game like former Waratahs Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau and Bernard Foley.
Hegarty hasn’t reached the Wallabies’ status of that trio but all the best Reds sides have had under-the-radar performers like him.
Players like Mark Murray and Junior Pelesasa, Paul Kahl and Adrian Skeggs and Adam Wallace-Harrison, Beau Robinson and Ian Prior won Super 10 trophies, excelled in big wins over NSW or won Super Rugby semi-finals and finals. Only Kahl and Robinson ever played a Test, both as a one-off.
Hegarty is delighted to be playing in a side on a 6-0 roll but knows how much work has been put in over several seasons to get here.
“I suppose good stuff falls your way when you do the work, stay resilient and in the fight. That’s been a hallmark at key points of this year’s results,” he said.
“There are strong connections in this Reds team with a lot of guys knowing each other and playing together for a long time from Under-20s days.
“There’s a comfort with each other and combinations between those guys which is definitely beneficial. It’s been good gelling with them to get to where we are at now.”
Hegarty has speed and a sharp knack for backing up in attack plus a reliable boot but he feels his major gains over the past three seasons have been elsewhere.
“I think my biggest gains have been on the mental side to get to that state of mind where you are playing with freedom and flow,” Hegarty said.
“That’s a real focus on preparation.”
The Brumbies and Reds have played five times over the past 14 months which has fed a closer rivalry. The Brumbies have the edge 3-2 which also feeds that feeling they remain the benchmark until the Reds prove superior in a final.
“It felt good last weekend against the Rebels. We played quite composed footy and mature footy is what you want coming into finals,” Hegarty said.
“The Brumbies are a team that is never going to beat themselves. They have a good all-round game and are well coached so you have to be on your game.”