Like a duck to water
ASKED about his recollections of a young Rocky Elsom, the first thing Noosa Dolphins mentor Peter Hansen mentions is size.
Rocky was big. Really big.
Elsom kicked off his Rugby Union World Cup campaign in New Zealand when the Wallabies defeated Italy at North Harbour Stadium.
The Sunshine Coast might be an ocean away from Auckland, but it was at the Noosa Dolphins Rugby Union Club that Elsom took his first steps towards the upper echelon of the sport.
Elsom went to school at Tewantin State School and Noosa District High School and spent most of his youth playing rugby league for the Noosa Pirates.
When he was 14, he and brother Dusty shifted over to the 15-man game, joining the Dolphins.
From a very young age, Elsom (who now stands at 197cm and weighs 106kg) towered above his opponents. Within a short time of arriving at the Dolphins he was playing up two age divisions but still excelled.
At 14 he was selected for an under-16 Sunshine Coast representative side to play a carnival on the Gold Coast. It was there that he was scouted by prestigious private school Nudgee College.
The next year, Elsom moved to Brisbane on a half scholarship at Nudgee before going on to captain the school's first XV and play for the Queensland and Australian schoolboys teams.
Hansen, now the Dolphins' first-grade assistant coach, was in charge of the under-16s when Elsom came to the club. From the outset he realised Elsom had the size, speed and temperament to be a special player.
"He took to it like a duck to water," Hansen said.
"He had the size on him. The difference between 12 or 13 and 14 or 15 can be quite marked, but that was never really apparent with Rocky.
"I think one of the brothers came to play rugby - they got a taste at school and thought they'd come and play for Noosa.
"Next thing we know we've got Dusty and Rocky playing down here in the same side. Because he was bashed and beaten by his brothers so much when he was young, he played up with them all the time."
After leaving school, Elsom returned to rugby league. He spent two seasons with the Canterbury Bulldogs under-20 Jersey Flegg side, which won the 2001 premiership.
In 2003 he returned to rugby union with the NSW Waratahs. The rest is history.