Folau 'can make Wallabies'
Waratahs Super Rugby recruit Israel Folau. Photo: Mark Kolbe
Joseph Tomane is proof NRL converts can make a rapid rise through the rugby ranks and the ACT Brumbies star has backed Israel Folau to follow his journey to the Wallabies.
Just 12 months after joining the Brumbies, Tomane capped off a superb debut season by winning the Rugby Union Players Association newcomer of the year prize at a function in Sydney on Wednesday.
Despite initially planning to play only a support role at the Brumbies in his first Super Rugby season, Tomane established himself as an exciting winger and was rewarded with his first Test cap in June.
ACT Brumby Joseph Tomane during his Melbourne Storm days.
Now Folau is trying to follow in his footsteps after turning his back on a lucrative AFL deal and a chance to play in the NRL for Parramatta to instead play Super Rugby.
Folau will line up for the NSW Waratahs next season in a major coup for the club.
Folau was already a rugby league star when Tomane joined him at Melbourne.
Their careers took different paths, but five years on the pair will likely go head-to-head when the Brumbies play the Waratahs in Canberra on March 9 and, form pending, compete for a spot in the Wallabies.
''I just hope if he does start on the wing that he's on the opposite side to me,'' Tomane joked after catching up with Folau yesterday.
''He will be a huge asset to the game, he'll put bums on seats wherever he goes. He's the complete athlete, now he'll have the engine to play Super Rugby and he's already got the God-given talent and skill. He can definitely [make the Wallabies next year], but hopefully it's in the centres and not on the wing.''
Tomane's advantage in his first season with the Brumbies was that he had the experience of being a schoolboy rugby star growing up in Queensland.
He pursued his rugby league goals with the Storm and Gold Coast Titans before deciding to cross codes to the Brumbies was the best move to revive his career.
But even after being in the Australian Schoolboy rugby team, a humble Tomane believed his first season with the Brumbies would be a development campaign.
His initial goal was to earn a place on the bench by the end of the season. However, it took only a few weeks for coach Jake White to inject the powerful winger into his starting XV and Tomane had an immediate impact.
What was supposed to be a year of learning rapidly turned into a season of triumph for the 22-year-old.
He impressed Wallabies coach Robbie Deans enough to earn his first Test cap against Scotland, but just when he appeared on the cusp of regular selection, an ankle injury cut his year short.
Tomane made a comeback in the Brumbies' last game and had hoped for a Rugby Championship and spring tour spot. But he re-injured himself and missed the opportunity.
The good news is Tomane believes he can be even better in his second Super Rugby campaign.
In his first season he won the Brumbies' and Australian Super Rugby rookie of the year awards and completed the trifecta with the RUPA gong. Tomane beat Bernard Foley, Kyle Godwin and Cadeyrn Neville for the award.
''I guess I'm just really lucky and I'm very grateful, I thought the other nominees were better than me, to be honest,'' Tomane said. ''I'm still in shock that I've achieved as much as I have this year and I'm hoping I can continue to do more and more in the future because I know the better I do the better it will be for the team.
''I only had a short time to learn the game. I'm still a little bit raw so hopefully I can transfer my first year of knowledge and improve next season.''
Fellow Brumby Pat McCabe, who is recovering from a neck injury, won the academic achievement award for fast-tracking his law degree.