Folau scenario likely to be repeated

Caught in the middle: Israel Folau has endured an interesting couple of weeks. Photo: Tamara Dean
Caught in the middle: Israel Folau has endured an interesting couple of weeks. Photo: Tamara Dean

I could empathise with Israel Folau over the past week – when someone else made decisions about his welfare, came in over the top and told him what was best. Don't stress too much though, Izzy: I've been there myself.

My situation in a similar scenario shows that this is not unique. Two governing bodies both thought they had control of a situation.

My injury was sustained at Waratahs level, but was to be managed at Wallabies level.

The information I was getting from medical staff was that I was progressing. I knew I wasn't right, but subsequently had to hang around the camp for the "we might need you'' call.

I was being used as a pin cushion of sorts – being injected with cortisone in the affected area way too often. It was: "Yes sir, no sir, three bags full, sir.''

You believe in the management and the care, but who really has the player's interest at heart?

I understand players are expendable commodities, but until you stick up for yourself, you keep running into the same line. I questioned the injury management and promptly saw a specialist. After surgery I was back to full fitness in three weeks. I wasted eight.

It's the players who are put in a difficult place because they have divided loyalties.

On one hand, they are contractually under the guise of their states but, on the other hand, the governing body can always come over the top and wave the magic wand.

There is a pretty good working relationship between the states with regards to player welfare, but sometimes the line gets a little blurred.

The question is: who has ownership of the player? Or perhaps that question should be rephrased: who is the most selfish? Who has the most to gain by making a decision that will benefit the one in question?

The franchises want the player to play because he will benefit the team in the short term, but conversely, if that player sustains a long-term injury from a premature return, it could jeopardise the player's ability of further rep honours. What is more important: playing for your country or your state?

The goal of every player is to represent their country. That's the bigger picture here. Let's not be deluded. But you have to play well for your state to have any chance.

It is a little bit of the-chicken-and-the-egg scenario. I remember the Queenslanders used to cry out that the Waratahs played for gold jerseys first, then the blue, but that they played for the red.

Perhaps this mentality was true on occasion, but in effect, you are using Super Rugby as a means of getting there. When you are there you have to own that spot.

Some players, however, have the golden ticket. The ones who will be chosen, no matter what. They will be the first ones picked. They are exempt from selection discussions because the coaches know their worth at Test level.

This is why the situation with Folau last week was so delicate.

You could see the dismay of the player and Waratahs coaches after the initial decision of pulling out Folau from the Force game, but in the months leading up next year's World Cup, I suspect this will happen again.

There are big bucks being paid for these players to perform and, essentially, the revenue comes in the front door when the players are wearing green and gold.

The World Cup was last won by the Wallabies 15 years ago and in the past decade the trophy cabinet has been fairly bare.

Yes, there has been the Cook Cup, the Hopetoun Cup, the Lansdowne Cup and the Mandela Plate, but no Bledisloe or Rugby Championship.

Ironically, the Tri Nations Trophy now sits proudly in the cabinet at ARU HQ because the Wallabies were the last to claim the tournament before the competition was changed. Nail it down boys, don't let that one go!

So will this prove the right decision?

The ones who will lose will be the player and the public, but if we gaze into the crystal ball and see a gold cup being lifted, no one will remember the controversy about holding players back from their duty – and that will justify the tough decisions made by management.

So will this idea of a nanny state take hold in the coming months?

Yes, I think, it will. The ARU will want to protect their assets and the best way to do that will be to flex their muscles and be the ultimate decision maker when it comes to a talent whose fitness is in question.

This story Folau scenario likely to be repeated first appeared on Brisbane Times.