Wallabies great Matt Giteau has ditched retirement plans and will play on in 2022 for the LA Giltinis.
Today’s announcement is a coup after all the polish, poise and direction that Giteau injected into the club’s Championship-winning triumph in 2021.
Giteau admitted that the whole rugby and life experience in Los Angeles had convinced him that he wanted more and could play on at 39.
“The 2021 season with the Giltinis was such a really positive experience, both in terms of the rugby and my young family living in Los Angeles,” Giteau said.
“When you win it magnifies any type of experience you have.
“I was really content with the way things finished. It was such a super season to end up with a Championship.
“It was a month or two after last season that I started to entertain the idea of playing on. When the Giltinis showed interest in me coming back, it got serious.
“My wife Bianca has changed her life to suit me many times but when she was keen and the kids were pumped for more of LA, it made the decision an easy one.”
Giteau’s fitness work in his Australian home city of Canberra had him in good shape when he arrived for his first session with the Giltinis last Thursday.
The 103-Test international brings a winner’s edge to playing flyhalf and leading the backline. His hunger to keep pushing himself is one reason why his two-decade career sparkles with seven elite trophies in Australia (Brumbies), France (Toulon), Japan (Suntory) and the US (Giltinis).
He was named man-of-the-match when the Giltinis beat Rugby ATL 31-17 in Major League Rugby’s Championship final last August at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. A straightening run and one-handed off-load set up the first John Ryberg try and a pinpoint chip kick set up another.
Giteau is excited about the playing squad the Giltinis have assembled and the fresh challenge of the club’s second season.
“Retaining 80 per cent of the squad is a good feat in itself. Just turning up to training and feeling that familiarity with the boys has been excellent,” Giteau said.
“I’m under no illusions about my age. Tas Smith, our new halfback, was born a year before I made my Test debut in 2002. My body feels great but there’s a lot of hard work for everyone ahead.
“We know we are the target for every team in MLR. We’ll get it every week with teams always wanting to measure themselves against the team that won it.
“We want the same success in 2022 but as our Head Coach Stephen Hoiles says ‘anything we did last year won’t be good enough’. We need to find more.”
Coach Hoiles is certain Giteau will be a huge asset in 2022 as a player and mentor.
“His best game for the Giltinis was his last game in the Championship game. That’s the sort of competitor he is,” Hoiles said.
“Straight after the final, there was a sense that maybe it was a good time to bow out for him but a month later the indications were he might go again. It’s a credit to LA and how good a time he and his family have had here.
“With Dave Dennis and Gits, they feel the job is not yet done at the Giltinis...they want to set up the club for success over 10 years, not just one or two.”
The Giltinis are in full training for the kick-off to their Championship defence against the Houston Sabercats in Houston on February 5. Opening Day at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is set for Sunday, February 27 against the New England Free Jacks.