The Brumbies paused pre-season training to pay tribute to Robbie Abel’s nephew and family. Photo: Jay Cronan Brumbies lock Sam Carter hopes he can be a leader in the 2016 Super Rugby season. Photo: Graham Tidy
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They have conquered ‘s highest peak and have their sights on climbing even higher in the Super Rugby season, but the ACT Brumbies stepped away from their title ambitions to pay a touching tribute to a teammate on Monday.
The Brumbies put their pre-season preparations on hold to rally around hooker Robbie Abel and his family after the death of his nephew two weeks ago.
River Arama Parry, who was 21 months old, drowned in a backyard swimming pool in Canberra.
To pay their respects, Brumbies players gathered for a moment’s silence before their afternoon training and wore black armbands for the session.
Abel only returned to training on Monday after being granted extended leave to grieve with his family.
It was the first step in his hopes of winning his first Super Rugby cap after joining the Brumbies’ extended player squad this season.
The Brumbies are aiming high this year after making the finals in the past three seasons, but are trying to avoid getting caught up in the pre-season hype and expectations.
They could boast as many as 12 internationals in their starting XV for the opening game of the season against the Wellington Hurricanes on February 26.
Wallabies lock Sam Carter has taken on the extra responsibility of being the sole lineout caller, and hopes his World Cup experience drives him to become a better player this year.
Carter was called into the Wallabies squad as an injury replacement for Will Skelton, but did not get to play a game as charged into the World Cup final.
Failing to get any game time has done little to dampen Carter’s enthusiasm.
“A lot of guys have a lot of experience now and I’m one of those people. A few guys are looking to step up this year and make their mark on the team, and lead around the park,” Carter said.
“I’m looking to further my game in all aspects and what I want to bring in 2016 is having a bit more responsibility in that lineout role.
“I made sure I did everything possible to put myself in the position to have an opportunity [at the World Cup]. It was tough not to get a game, but I know I did everything I could.
“Everyone wants to play at the highest level and the World Cup is the pinnacle of rugby. That’s definitely my focus … I’m looking forward to the next one.”
The Brumbies will play two pre-season trials against the NSW Waratahs on February 6 and the Queensland Reds on February 12.
Carter will almost certainly be the Brumbies’ starting second-rower for the beginning of the season, with Rory Arnold, Blake Enever and Jordan Smiler battling for a chance to join him.