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Folau in front seat on one fickle rollercoaster


Ewen McKenzie

"It's true that he experienced a tough induction to Super Rugby but it isn't fair that he is now viewed as a failure ...

"It's true that he experienced a tough induction to Super Rugby but it isn't fair that he is now viewed as a failure following his first Super Rugby." Photo: Getty Images

Seven days is a long time in rugby and a lot can happen to turn around a team's performance. It's even longer in the world of the media and there are two stories which have stuck in my mind from the weekend.

The first is the collapse of support for Israel Folau and secondly the ''discovery'' of Eddie Quirk. In reality, neither of these two events should have come as a surprise.

It has been easy for everyone in the past two months to be praising, extolling, wondering, postulating, extrapolating, hypothesising and dreaming about the rise and rise of ''Izzy'' in rugby.

This interest has been great for the promotion of the game although it's important to remember that it hasn't been Izzy who has been doing all the talking. In fact, all he has been doing since signing with the Waratahs has been showing up to training, meeting his teammates and learning the nuances of the game.

It's true that he experienced a tough induction to Super Rugby but it isn't fair that he is now viewed as a failure following his first Super Rugby game while only two weeks ago he was being dubbed the Black Caviar of rugby. Over time you learn nothing is ever as good or bad as it seems.

Saturday's match wasn't Folau's greatest game of rugby but there will be many better ahead.

On the flip side, Quirk was the Reds' man of the match after putting in a second tireless and effective performance, including setting up the match-winning try. In the space of one day, Izzy gets off the rollercoaster and Eddie jumps on. Suddenly the ''ranga'' gets the attention and his life becomes very public. And, so the process works.

With Eddie, as I reminded everyone at our post-game press conference, we were always confident about our back-row depth despite Scott Higginbotham's departure. I can assure you Eddie's performance from that night wasn't a miracle from the heavens. In fact, Eddie debuted for the Reds in 2011 against the Waratahs before being subsequently dropped as he was not ready for the occasion or the level. He went back, continued to work hard, and two years later has dominated in a brutal contest.

One performance should never change the Wallabies' pecking order but it does get you noticed. I am quite sure if you asked Folau and Quirk they would both dream of becoming national players. Let me assure you, there isn't a person in the five Australian provinces or in club rugby without the same dream.

Opportunity is not always shared equally in life and some players get the rails run and plenty of attempts while others never get a go at all. The bottom line is your skills and attitude under pressure do your bidding and this applies to Izzy and Eddie. Both players have things to continue working hard on - as Eddie knows it can take some time. But we do know though that you can't fake it. There isn't anywhere on a rugby pitch you can hide.

The dilemma for Israel ahead of last week's game was how much he could replicate from training that would prepare him for a game. The investment made in him both as a player and as someone to promote the sport in NSW meant he was always going to play. However, with no club rugby at the moment it turned out to be only his fourth game of rugby, so it was really on-the-job training as far as he was concerned.

If the Waratahs' long-term vision is that he can make it big, then that's worth the investment.

But Izzy brings more than just strong physical talents. He is also a commercial investment, no different to the one made by Greater Western Sydney in the AFL. Every sporting team wants new fans and guys such as Izzy attract media attention and as a result new sponsors and fans. So, in effect, the Waratahs have two horses running.

The one that needs to learn the detail of the game before hopefully becoming a Wallaby and the other is the one that puts bums on seats and gets fans in NSW excited about the game again.

The bottom line is you need balance. Sport needs its heroes and it needs to create interest. There is no question teams need exposure but in the end it's performance that counts. This doesn't change if you are Israel Folau, the Waratahs' PR and marketing machine or knockabout western suburbs redhead Eddie Quirk. The field of dreams is also the field of reality and that's where it matters most. The court of public opinion is fickle and slippery. Best to let your rugby do the talking.

35 comments so far

  • Its funny I haven't heard of Folau's first game being reffered to as a failure anywhere but in this article.

    Date and time
    February 28, 2013, 8:46AM
    • Most of the commentary that I read/heard discussed in detail the things Folau did wrong and barely mentioned anything that he did right. You are correct in saying that no one else used the word "failure", but the impression given was that Folau had failed.

      Date and time
      February 28, 2013, 9:11AM
    • Did you watch the game - he coughed up the ball in the tackle multiple times and didn't gain many meters. Whilst the second half was better Folau himself admitted to being 'disappointed' with his effort. Personally I still think he's a chance for the Wallabies as it his catching ability and height will hopefully put a stop the current technique of the Saffas and the Kiwis punting high balls for our back three (recently Quade, Kurtley and Diggers) to fumble, have bounce off their chests straight back to the opposition or fail to take at all.

      Date and time
      February 28, 2013, 9:40AM
    • Fair point Nato, but we in Sydney haven't been exposed to the coverage north of the border. Seems Link is of the opinion that Izzy got off too lightly in the media. I'm inclined to agree.

      Date and time
      February 28, 2013, 9:51AM
    • @ Nato

      I think that as 'QldsLink' is now resident north of THAT border that this is the perspective of that unfair comment. It helps to remember that this was a 'home-coming' (of sorts) for Izzy and some (most ?) Queenslanders were hoping that Izzy would fold under that pressure. I don't think he did and considering it was something akin to a 'baptism of fire' in the cauldron of a hostile Suncorp, Izzy acquitted himself quiet well. And to be correct I don't think
      'QldsLink' thought that appraisal as fair anyhow.
      With a game now under his belt the real focus of attention will be now on Izzy as he plays more games. I think he's up for it but maybe not at fullback...would like to see in the mid-field. Anyhow the Rebels are next and at the Tahs' home with a more (hopefully) favourable crowd supporting.

      inner west sydney
      Date and time
      February 28, 2013, 10:02AM
    • I dont think any article written about Folau has actually said he was a failure but I read plenty of articles that certainly concentrated on the negative aspects of his performances so I wouldn't get too sensitive about McKenzie's comments. I don't view McKenzie's article as being critical of Folau but rather as being positive about what he can be and realistic about the difficulties of his transition in the early stages. I think his prospects are probably the best of all of the league recruits and I really look forward to seeing a lot more of Folau. When it all clicks it will be great to watch.

      Date and time
      February 28, 2013, 10:02AM
    • Thats because you must only watch channel 9, as to them there is no way one of there league greats can be anything but the best player in Rugby union.

      Ried Alderbooks
      Date and time
      February 28, 2013, 10:23AM
    • Nato: I think you may have missed the point of the article. The last line of the article really sums it up.
      "The court of public opinion is fickle and slippery. Best to let your rugby do the talking."

      Good article Link

      Date and time
      February 28, 2013, 10:44AM
    • I was thinking the same thing when I read this.

      Date and time
      February 28, 2013, 10:53AM
    • Newcastle Herald 25/2, 24/2, The Border Mail 26/2... a thousand comments on and on

      Link is being very sensible here, and you are seeing Reds under the bed.

      read more
      Date and time
      February 28, 2013, 12:34PM

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