Honey Badger Nick Cummins gets call-up for Hong Kong Sevens
Feast of ‘meat pies’ awaits after intensive training regime to get super fit pays off for larger-than-life Aussie
Australia’s Nick “Honey Badger” Cummins is coming to Hong Kong after all, with rugby fans in the city ready for a feast of zany one-liners and larrikin-like fun from the 28-year-old back.
The colourful Cummins was originally left off the Australian squad for the Hong Kong Sevens because of fitness concerns following a lay-off.
However, after 19-year-old Henry Hutchison was ruled out on Saturday because of a minor foot injury, the Badger was called up to travel to Hong Kong.
“Nick has come into the group well, it’s a learning curve. He’s not played sevens since the Commonwealth Games in Delhi,” said Australia team manager Luca Liussi.
“He’s excited to come to the Hong Kong Sevens, he knows he’s got to re-learn the game, and that he has a lot of hard yards to do, but he puts in the effort and has a lot to offer the team.
“The team are in good condition and have been playing consistently well. In the last few years the games has changed enormously and we are on top of it and are primed.”
Despite his reputation as a comedian during post-game interviews, Cummins brings some solid sevens pedigree to the team. He was part of the 2007 Australian sevens squad and was their top try scorer at the IRB Sevens World Series.
Australia haven’t won the Hong Kong Sevens since 1988 when Michael Lynagh captained a team who included David Campese. The Aussies are traditionally booed at the Sevens but Liussi said the players are ready for any hostility.
“Nick and the team are not the least bit concerned about the Hong Kong Sevens tradition of being booed on the pitch,” he said.
“They see it as encouragement. It’s a long time since Australia last won at the Sevens in Hong Kong. “We’ve amassed a great Sevens team and Nick is just one of the great players.”
The manager says Cummins has been training in Narrabeen since 22nd March, and his regime has included running up and down an airport runway in between take-offs and landings.
“You’ve got to be body ready for the Sevens, you’ve got to be in the best possible shape or you’ll blow a gasket or twang a hamburgler,” Cummins said of sevens rugby.
He’s also been running through deep snow in Norway and living like a Scandinavian Tarzan in order to get fit, eliciting his remark: “You gotta drill through the ice and wheel out dinner. It’s minus 33 degrees, you’re dressed up like a pet lizard. You can only wrestle so many reindeer.”
“I had a couple of runs at the airport on the red dirt. When they are [planes] coming in you know about it because they come in pretty quick, so you’ve got to dart off to the side before they clean you up.”
Cummins had indicated he was “keen as mustard” to playing in Hong Kong and the Singapore Sevens in his bid to make the Aussie team for the Olympic Games.
Last year, there was a horde of Honey Badgers in the South Stand, which he would no doubt think were “as mad as a tree full of galahs”. It seems wherever he goes he soon earns a cult following, and has several Facebook pages dedicated to his one-liners.
Last July, in order to maximise his earnings for his father with prostate cancer and seven siblings, (two of whom have cystic fibrosis), “The Badge” was released early on compassionate grounds from his contract at the Western Force in Australia, putting aside dreams to play in the Rugby World Cup.
He joined the Coca-Cola West Red Sparks in Japan’s top league, which ran from the end of August until early February. Afterwards, he took a month’s holiday with his family and headed to the Kimberley’s in Western Australia and Norway.
Some may say his road to success has been “as tough as woodpecker lips” to use his parlance. He represented Queensland in Australian school rugby in 2005. In 2006, he moved to Sydney, joining Randwick.
His unique turn of phrase – as well as his rugby skills – have made him a magnet for media, marketers and a multitude of fans.
In the spirit of malapropisms, an American commentator called him “the Honey Bear”, and in Japan, maybe because of previous photos in yellow Wallaby kit, they call him “the Honey Budgie”.
In fact, Cummins earned his nickname after watching a documentary with his teammates.
Watch the Honey Badger’s best moments
“It was all about the underdog. There is this little animal and it won’t back down from a blue. There is a documented case where it took on a fully grown lion. The honey badger clawed the canastas out of the big fella.”
The Honey Badger is all about “meat pies’’ or “tries” on the pitch, but off the pitch he likes nothing more than a spot of fishing and to spend time with his family.
Cummins seems to have little time for pretentiousness, which, to use his vernacular he would say was “as useless as an ashtray on a motorbike”.
He puts his turn of phrase down to “chin wagging with the family around the dinner table” and “conditioning as a child”.
Often quoting his family in interviews, it’s easy to think that “The Badge” is a chip off the old block, doing what he does for his family, starting with his father – a single dad – who was named Queensland father of the year in 2012.
With the Hong Kong Sevens action about to begin, the Honey Badger is “busier than a one-armed bricklayer in Baghdad”, to use his often quoted phrase, trying to force his way into Olympic reckoning.
“The plan [now] is Rio and the plan is be your best, challenge yourself and come home with the chocolates.”