I'M at a party on Saturday night, and I'm asked the question, "do you mind Folau joining the Wallabies?"
First, as you do at a barbie, I had a bite of my steak burger, a gulp of my beer, and burped.
Apologising for the burp gave me time to think about the question, because straight away it nagged at me.
As a proud Wallaby player, I must say, over the last five months, let's call it the 'Israel Folau conundrum', has taken up a fair bit of my mental space. And I've been asked similar questions by 'rugby people'.
It pretty much goes this way: "how do you feel after playing 10 years of juniors, making your way via club footy, old-school blood sweat 'n' tears, then Queensland representation, then to make the Wallabies?".
And then to have some bloke waltz in after maybe 10 games and become a Wallaby.
Well, on this occasion, after cleaning the barbeque sauce off my chin, I replied in this fashion.
"Gents", it became plural at this stage, "playing for your country is a massive privilege. You expect that the hard yards you have done matter. You understand it's a selection process, and that the best make the cut. That's what matters most, and underpins the integrity of the whole caper - especially the Wallaby process".
"I wasn't so happy either in the Wendell Sailor, let's say, era. But gents, I'm very happy with the Israel Folau 'era'. The bloke's a freak, and to have my name and the Wallaby brand associated with Israel Folau is enormous".
And, with strong, strong emotion flowing through me, built through the privilege of (six) years of singing the anthem, arm in arm with not only my fellow Wallabies, but also with at least a few million other Aussies, as we went for gold against the opposition, sweating, bleeding winning and losing, I end this way.
"At the end of the day we want the best rugby players in Australia wearing the Wallaby jersey. Being a Wallaby is not only about now. We play a part in the Gold journey. There were blokes before us, there are blokes now, and there will be blokes in the future.
"While the boys might not sing the anthem in the sheds, beer in hand and spilled throughout, they will be singing it as proud and as privileged as I did, and those before me. Because not only did we do our best, but because we were the best rugby players in Australia."
I drank the rest of beer, looked up, burped (apologised again), and finished with "it's as simple as that".
The best rugby players need to be picked for the Wallabies - and Israel Folau is one hell of a gifted Aussie rugby player so he needs to be picked.
It makes us former Wallabies proud.
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