SYDNEY (Reuters) - Kurtley Beale has been rejuvenated by his move back to Sydney after a miserable 2013 and desperate to get out on a rugby pitch in the green and gold of Australia to prove the doubters wrong.
The versatile back has been in sparkling form for the New South Wales Waratahs in Super Rugby, combining particularly well with fellow Wallaby Israel Folau, and appears to have banished the demons that beset him last year.
Beale's unhappy time at the Melbourne Rebels included a drunken assault on captain Gareth Delve and team mate Cooper Vuna in South Africa last March.
Another infraction of the team's disciplinary code saw Beale stood down indefinitely by the Rebels and return to his home city of Sydney to undergo counselling for issues relating to alcohol abuse.
After nonetheless playing his part in the British and Irish Lions series defeat last June and July, Beale spent the rest of the year recuperating from shoulder surgery.
"I've grown up, it was an experience that I probably needed to have, I guess," he told reporters at the launch of the new Wallabies shirt on Wednesday.
"I'm feeling good about myself, I'm very clear in what I want to do in life and I'm happy. That's definitely helped me on the field.
"People go through those sorts of experiences and I'm no different. I'm glad I got another chance with the Waratahs and I'm grateful for that.
"And now, hanging out with the Wallabies is a great feeling and I have a burning desire in my gut to get out there and prove something to people who have doubted me."
Wallabies scrumhalf Nick Phipps, who has known Beale since their schooldays and came with him from the Rebels to the Waratahs this year, said the move had transformed his fellow 25-year-old.
"Mate, the difference between him this year and last year is just amazing," he said.
"You can just tell when he comes in every morning, last year he'd come in a bit down and get into it for the day but here he's bouncing around.
"All the boys love him, he's that loveable character who can bounce around and have a laugh with the boys and get them laughing. That's great because it's a long season and to have that enthusiasm every day is good for the squad."
After winning most of his 39 test caps at fullback or flyhalf, Beale has shone at inside centre in Super Rugby this season and his understanding with try-scoring machine Folau has had hearts racing among Australian rugby fans.
"We're great mates off the field but actually we don't talk too much about (playing)," Beale added. "When we're out there, we don't think much about what we do. It's about reacting off each other.
"Obviously it's great to have him outside me but it's a long season and teams are starting to pick us up now, he's not scored too many tries lately, but that opens up opportunities for other guys."
Folau, who scored a record-equalling 10 tries in his debut season in a Wallabies shirt last year, said he would be delighted to reprise the partnership at international level in the June test series against France.
"If we get picked, I'd love to play with him for the Wallabies," he told Reuters.
"I've had a great time playing with him for the Waratahs and we've got a combination going."
Beale said he would be happy to play anywhere in the backline for his country, which is probably a good thing given he also thinks that competition for places is stronger than it has been for several years.
That, combined with the form of the Australian teams in Super Rugby, has persuaded Beale that the Wallabies have the talent available to take on and beat the All Blacks.
"One hundred percent, mate," he said. "I say that with full confidence.
"There's stiff competition in all positions, we didn't have that in the last few years but now that feeling's back.
"I think you're to get players hungry to win their place in the side and that can only help our hopes against a special team like the All Blacks."
(Editing by Ian Ransom)
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