Sun 22 Jun 2014 | 08:43
McKenzie wants heroes to stay
Sun 22 Jun 2014 | 08:43
McKenzie wants heroes to staySHARE
Israel Folau has caused a stir with indecision on his own future, stating that short-term sabbaticals could be an incentive to keep top players in Australia.
However, Ewen McKenzie will respectfully disagree with his prized fullback on the subject of sabbaticals.
McKenzie sided with his employer on the controversial issue, where Australian Rugby Union CEO, Bill Pulver, stated he would not allow short term leave for Wallabies.
"The one thing I'm pretty adamant on and I'm 100 per cent that [Pulver] is the same, is that we have to have players here to support the development of the game," he told the Canberra Times.
"We're in a very hot market for the hearts and minds of young kids and you need to have players available to back that up.
"Playing in the jersey every now and then helps but you still have to connect and at the moment they connect for 12 months of the year through Super Rugby and through Wallabies.
"We battle as it is now because we haven't got enough heroes.
"We're trying to develop more heroes through the five Super clubs and through sevens, so we have to keep working on that.
"You have to recognise that once you walk away from that … [how do you] support the development of a game in a market where rugby league's got a whole bunch of clubs out there putting players out into the community?"
McKenzie said there was flexibility already built into the ARU's contracting processes and a subcommittee recently formed to review the system would look at ways to keep Australia competitive with increasingly lucrative overseas markets.
"We're trying to rationalise player payments and the rest of the world is moving player payments up by 20 per cent," he said.
"You have to keep understanding what the total market is … This committee will work out the best approach based on the circumstances as they are now, not what they were two years ago.
"But in the back of our minds we've still got to support the development of the game."
His comments are timely considering the standout peformances of Folau and Test debutant Will Skelton in the Wallabies' 39-13 win against France at the weekend.
Folau arrived in rugby as a hero from two codes of football less than two years ago and wasted little time establishing himself as rugby's pre-eminent star in Australia.
Skelton, his Waratahs teammate and good friend, has attracted a cult following among fans and showed on Saturday that his combination of size, skill and shaggy charm has the potential to do the same on a national level.
Like many of Australia's top athletes, he is a product of a couple of different codes, each of them contributing to the gifted and agile 140-kilogram footballer who received a standing ovation from the hardest-to-please variety of Australian sporting fans, the Sydney rugby crowd.
The Canberra Times