‘Golden Badger’ Cummins fires Wallabies
He might be the comical “Honey Badger”, winning fans for his one-liners and no-holds-barred enthusiasm, but Nick Cummins has also become an influential Wallabies figure.
In an Australian team wracked by inconsistency, the frizzy-haired cult hero has displayed an uncanny midas touch in his short 13-Test career.
Cummins has only suffered defeat three times since making his debut in 2012 to have a winning percentage (73%) that puts him up with the most successful Wallabies of all time.
In the nine games he missed, Australia won only three.
Coach Ewen McKenzie, who harboured a 76 per cent success rate in 51 Tests during the early-1990s golden era, said the numbers told an interesting story about the Western Force winger.
“He hasn’t played a lot of times for Australia but, when he plays, the team is successful,” McKenzie told AAP. “He’s got a very strong correlation of the team playing well and winning when he plays.
“Playing for his country brings the best out of him.”
The success rate is 100 per cent when Cummins crosses for a try.
His five-pointer in the 50-23 thumping of France last weekend – when his every touch was cheered by the Australian cricket team in the stands – was his sixth try and first on home soil.
Heading into Saturday night’s second Test at Etihad Stadium, Cummins is hellbent on another “piece of meat”, as in pie/try.
He believes his success, contrasted by the record of many teammates being below 60 per cent, could come as much from how he operates around the squad.
“At training, I consider myself a bit of a morale booster,” Cummins said. “I take a pack of lollies just to boost the boys’ morale. I see that as crucial.
“I try and be a good influence and keep a high energy.”
Cummins isn’t an on-field game-breaker like Israel Folau or Kurtley Beale, instead plying his trade with reliability, body-on-the-line enthusiasm and a preference to run over a rival than around him.
Fellow back Matt Toomua said the 26-year-old’s understated strengths were important to a back three containing Folau and Adam Ashley-Cooper.
“You get the spark through Izzy and Coopey as well,” he said. “It’s good to have that balance.”
While Toomua reported the extroverted Honey Badger is quieter and “actually intelligent” in person, the man who models his game on the fearless African mammal says what you see is what you get.
“You put your cards on the table and that’s what it is,” Cummins said. “When things start getting fake, I think people start making things up and it gets ugly from there.”
McKenzie is wary about a French backlash at Etihad Stadium after Les Bleus made 10 changes to their starting team.
“Everything I’ve been reading in their papers, they’ve been saying they’re out to avenge last week’s performance,” he said.