Izaia Perese, an incredibly powerful and elusive outside centre with genuine pace, has successfully righted his professional career to live up to the extreme promise he showed as a teenager.
Perese played junior rugby league as a lock for Brothers Stafford in Brisbane north and grew up with Maroons’ fullback Billy Slater as his idol. In 2016 he represented Queensland U16s, out of the North Devils, in State of Origin. When it came to rugby, Perese first played for St Edmunds, Ipswich before he transferred to Anglican Church Grammar School. Perese was twice selected in Churchie’s 1st XV (2013-14) and in that second year teamed up with future NRL star Kalyn Ponga and fellow future Wallaby Liam Wright to sweep all before them on the way to the GPS title. Three from that side, including Perese went on to win selection for Australian Schools.
In 2016, the 20-year-old Perese had a whirlwind year when he made his Super Rugby debut for Queensland, against the Force in Perth (L 19-26); represented Australian U20s; and was selected as a development player for the Wallabies’ end-of-season Spring Tour. The following year, Perese ran “amok” at his second U20s World Championships. He scored a hat-trick against Italy, one that had commentators in a lather over his speed and step.
Unfortunately, Perese’s incredibly promising rugby career stalled when he walked out on the Reds after 17 games to chase a “gnawing” NRL dream. Perese joined the Brisbane Broncos however his 2019 debut against Penrith was one of just two first-grade appearances. He then returned to rugby with Top 14 French club Bayonne before landing at the Waratahs.
That return home was an important turning point in Perese’s life: "The opportunity the Tahs gave me when I first came from France, they took a huge risk because they genuinely didn't know what they were getting with me. They took a huge gamble on me and I'm forever grateful for that.” Perese showed his gratitude on the field where a series of exceptional performances in the 2021 Super Rugby season saw him became just the second player, after Michael Hooper, to win the Matthew Burke Cup for the Waratahs’ player of the year in his first season at the club.
Perese went on to make his Test debut, five years after his first Spring Tour, against Scotland at Murrayfield.
2014 Represented Australian Schools, alongside future Scotland international Sione Tuipulotu in the 24-34 loss to New Zealand Schools.
2016 Represented Australia U20s at the 9th World Rugby U20s Championships in England. On the end-of-season Spring Tour, Perese played for an unofficial “Australian XV” against the French Barbarians - a side that included Antoine Dupont as reserve halfback - in Bordeaux (L 11-19).
2017 Represented Australia U20s at the 10th World Rugby U20s Championships in Georgia.
2021 Perese suffered a full subluxation of his shoulder playing for New South Wales against the Chiefs during the Super Rugby finals. The injury and subsequent surgery saw him miss the home series against France and the Rugby Championship. He won his first Test cap off the bench when he replaced Jordan Petaia in the 40th minute of the 13-15 loss to Scotland. Perese was also capped as a replacement the following weekend against England.
2022 Perese played just 37 minutes of Test rugby before he tore his right patella tendon against England in Melbourne.