Ben Mowen. Photo: Brendon Thorne
Former Wallaby Greg Martin thinks the Australian Rugby Union should make an exception to its top-up contract rules for ACT Brumbies captain Ben Mowen, just as it did for serial code-hopper Israel Folau.
And he also thinks the Brisbane Broncos are ''mad'' not to make a play for James O'Connor, who was dumped from his ARU contract on Thursday and is without a Super Rugby club.
Martin says a cash-strapped ARU is trying to be financially responsible by minimising the number of Wallabies top-ups it pays. Players such as Kurtley Beale, Scott Higginbotham and David Pocock are on the sidelines but still getting paid by the ARU, squeezing its funds even further.
But it was able to come up with the dough to ensure former rugby league international Folau hopped over to union and brought his marketability with him.
Martin says Mowen is also marketable. He thinks Super Rugby appearances may be a way to determine eligibility for an ARU top-up.
''If you can make an exception for Israel Folau, you can make an exception for Ben Mowen and give him two years' worth of top-ups. If he's no good at the end of next year, let him go to France or Japan.
''He's not a glamour marketing tool [like Folau], but he's what people want to see. He's the captain of the best team in Australia, that's marketing of a different sort.''
Apart from pride in the Wallabies jersey, Martin says top-ups are the only way to stop talent from going overseas where they can earn more money and play at a lower intensity, which also prolongs their careers.
He says 28-year-old Mowen is starting to get to that age when he'll look to ''cash in'' overseas, which means a top-up is needed to ensure he doesn't leave.
But he feels the ARU is looking to tighten its belt to ensure the money raised from the British and Irish Lions tour lasts. ''They're obviously trying to save money. They haven't got anything coming up that's going to make them money to keep cranking.''
It may have some money after O'Connor's release. His numerous off-field incidents leave him without a club or country to play for. Even NRL clubs Brisbane Broncos and Gold Coast Titans have ruled out signing him.
The Western Force and moving overseas look like his only options, but Martin thinks the Broncos should make a play.
''He'd be a perfect rugby league halfback, a little bit selfish. And he's got huge men who are in place to take the pressure if he wants to take it to the line … They should have a crack at him for two years.''
O'Connor tried for a Broncos contract when he was 15, but was told he was too small.