With Super Rugby kicking off this weekend, and the Sydney Sevens already been and gone, the Australian Rugby year is well and truly underway!
With that in mind, RUPA reached out to all of the current and former players on our Board to find out their thoughts on the year ahead; today, in the final installment, we hear from Melbourne Rebels Player Director, Ben Daley.
Ben, what are you most excited about, from an Australian Rugby perspective, in 2019?
"I think it's hard to go past it being a Rugby World Cup year. Speaking to the Wallabies boys who have come back into the Rebels camp, they were disappointed with how things transpired last year in terms of results but they are very keen and eager to go a lot better this year and give the World Cup a good shake.
"They've come back in tremendous shape, and their desire and determination to win that World Cup is really exciting to see and I think they'll do well."
Which Australian player(s) are you most looking forward to watching in action this year, and why?
"It's hard to go past blokes here at the Rebels, seeing somebody like Angus Cottrell who had a really great season last year after being out with serious injuries. He's had a really good, full pre-season, and with that under his belt I am really keen to see how he goes this year, he's on the cusp of the Wallabies and is definitely one to watch.
"There's also two young blokes in Trevor Hosea and Esei Haangana who have had ripping pre-seasons as well, and learning from experienced locks like Matt Philip, Luke Jones and Adam Coleman they're going to go from strength to strength. They've grown into their bodies now and are no longer under-age players, they're men, so seeing how they go in a Super Rugby environment will be exciting."
What does serving on the RUPA Board mean to you?
"I have always enjoyed the sports administration side of the game, and having the opportunity to be on the RUPA Board is something I am really excited about. For me, it's about making sure that the players are the number one priority in the game.
"Obviously there's a fair bit happening from an off-field perspective, so for me to be that conduit between the players and the administration side of things is something I think I can really help with.
"Also helping guys find that balance off the field too; sometimes you can get caught in the bubble of professional sport as a young bloke, but I have been around for a while and been able to do my own studies off the field so helping players to find that work ethic off the field as well as on is something I am definitely keen to be involved in."
What do you think is the single most pressing issue facing Australian Rugby heading into 2019?
"The number one challenge for me is probably trying to capture the hearts and minds of the Australian sporting public.
"We haven't had great results in Super Rugby over the past few years and as a consequence of that support for the game has waned a little bit. In Australian sport, everybody loves a winner and I think if we have some good results on the field it will increase the long-term viability of the competition."
What is your all-time favourite Australian Rugby memory?
"It is hard to go past the 2011 Super Rugby championship I won with the Queensland Reds, firstly. That was an unbelievable night and you celebrate it with your entire team. You go through a lot of heartache and tough times throughout the season, and to be able to win a Championship at the end of it all makes it so worthwhile.
"For my other favourite memory, it is hard to go past John Eales kicking the penalty goal to win the Bledisloe Cup many, many moons ago. I remember watching it at a school fair and I couldn't help but get goosebumps, and I think that moment was what made me decide I wanted to be a part of the game."
Click here to see the 2019 Super Rugby fixture.