Wednesday’s Rugby News looks at Hunt’s compassion for his suspended teammate, the Waratahs excitement for their new stadium, the Brumbies facing Super Rugby’s road trip from hell, and a young gun’s injury leaves the Reds at crisis point.
Hunt feeling for Folau
Waratahs centre Karmichael Hunt has opened up about his support for his close friend Israel Folau, calling the situation “sad.”
Hunt and Folau have shared similar career paths, being the only two men to have played three codes professionally, along with both men embroiled in controversy during their rugby union stints, with Hunt having been suspended and then released by the Reds for cocaine possession.
Whilst not sharing similar views to his former Bronco, Maroons and now Waratah teammate, Hunt feels empathetic to the situation that Folau finds himself in and has categorically stated that he will stand by him regardless of the outcome.
“It’s a sad situation,” Hunt said of the Folau issue. “I’ve got a personal connection with Izzy that’s gone back many years now, so to obviously see him in the position that he’s in – regardless of what his behaviours have caused – I still feel for him.”
“If anyone is in trouble or needs a hand, I’ll always want to put my hand out there and support them regardless but in terms of my personal beliefs, I’m going to leave it at that and just move forward.”
Hunt noted that the attention caused by Folau’s standing down and impending court case initially left the side shell-shocked, however, he believes that their performance against the Rebels showed that the side had found a positive mindset in its aftermath.
“Initially you have a pretty shell-shocked change room and I think that’s just a natural feeling to be had regardless of right or wrong because he is a teammate,” Hunt said.
“But the one thing about football…you need to be able to move on pretty quickly, regardless of if you have a 50-point loss to a team on the weekend or you lose a player like Israel. You’ve got to be able to look forward and worry about the week coming. That’s what the guys have been doing.”
“The performance on the weekend showed where the guys’ headspace is at. We’re worried about what we want to get out of this season and fulfilling our potential. I think the weekend just gone was a step in the right direction.”
Banking on new stadium fortune
Whilst on the Waratahs, this week marks the first time that rugby union is played on the new BankWest Stadium at Parramatta, which the side is eagerly anticipating.
The renovations of Allianz Stadium has forced the Waratahs to undertake the novel concept of a state team actually playing outside the capital city, having played games at Newcastle, Brookvale and the SCG.
Having played their majority of home games at the cricket ground, the shift out to Parramatta is a welcome change for fans, as the rectangular complexion of the stadium ensuring that the fans will no longer have to bring binoculars to see the action.
Waratahs captain Michael Hooper hopes that the move would hopefully be beneficial for fans and players alike, with all reports suggesting that a strong crowd is expected for the clash with the Sharks on Saturday.
“I’ve only seen photos (of the stadium) and looks amazing,” he said. “It looks amazing, looks fantastic, the field and the venue and just for the fans – they’ve had to be a bit wider on an oval field this year so good to get them a bit closer and get out to the west as well, be very good.”
The return to Parramatta marks a homecoming of some sorts for lock Jed Holloway, who played on the old stadium during his tenure for the Greater Sydney Rams in the NRC.
“I’m really excited, it looks unreal the stadium,” he said. “I’m a bit sad because I was a Greater Sydney Ram, we played at the old Parramatta Stadium, but I’m looking forward to getting out there and give it a go.”
Saturday will be the first of three matches that the Waratahs will take out to the stadium, ultimately acting as a litmus test for the Wallabies ahead of their World Cup farewell clash against Samoa in September.
Brumbies face road trip from hell
After their grinding victory over the Stormers, the Brumbies are confident that they can continue the revival of their Super Rugby season, despite facing Super Rugby’s road trip from hell.
The Brumbies are looking to extend their two-game winning streak, however, they must overcome Super Rugby’s hardest road trip when they travel from South Africa to Argentina to face to Jaguares on Sunday morning.
Brumbies forward Murray Douglas was confident that the side could continue riding the wave of momentum, noting the confidence that the side had gained from their performance in Cape Town.
“We had confidence in the group and we had confidence in the team we put out. We knew if we put the performance together then we would get the result,” Douglas said.
“To come up to Cape Town and play the Stormers, we knew it was never easy. We’ll take a lot of confidence off the back of a huge defensive effort. We approached this game really well.”
The Brumbies will look to take a similar attitude and tactics into their clash with the Jaguares, who will desperate for a victory, as they sit just one point outside of the top 8.
“We go into Argentina with the exact same approach, we concentrate on ourselves and we put that effort on effort. If guys put everything out there, leaving everything on the field, then that is going to put us in a good place to get another win next week.”
“We prepared for it really well, so we will be using the same sort of tactics heading into Argentina against the Jaguares. We go into the game knowing we can put in another good performance.”
The Brumbies will be without a host of experience, with David Pocock (calf), Lachlan McCaffrey (knee) and Josh Mann-Rea (knee) already back in Canberra for treatment.
Reds winging it
The Reds are facing a wing crisis, with scans set to confirm the end of the season for flyer Jack Hardy.
Hardy suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament during the side’s victory over the Sharks, which was his last game before he was set to star for Junior Wallabies in the Oceania Under-20s Championship.
The absence of Hardy will be a huge blow to the Junior Wallabies, who are set to face Japan in their first match on Friday on the Gold Coast, with coach Jason Gilmore and the side looking to go one step further than they did last year.
The injury could not have come at the worst time for the Reds, who are already missing Jordan Petaia (knee), Filipo Daugunu (broken forearm) and rookie squad member Will Eadie (knee).
This leaves Sefa Naivalu as the club’s only recognised winger, with the Reds expected to choose between Aidan Toua and Jock Campbell as his partner before the return of Daugunu in a month.
The injury to Hardy had an eerie sense of deja vu for the Reds physio, Cameron Lillicrap, who witnessed similar injuries at the same venue to Tim Horan and Jason Little during his own playing days in the 1994 Super 10 final.
“To be there in ‘94 and see Jack go down no more than 20m from where Tim and Jason did their knees was a strange feeling,” Lillicrap said.
The Reds arrived home from their South African adventure on Sunday, with the majority of the squad set to take their first bye week since the start of the comp as the perfect opportunity to rest up.
However, prop Taniela Tupou is set to ignore any suggestions of resting by the Reds and the Wallabies, indicating that he would prefer to play club rugby on the weekend in order to keep the rhythm of playing matches.