Brumbies coach Dan McKellar has hit out at the instant-star syndrome enveloping Australian rugby, saying the best Wallabies players will earn their stripes the hard way.
McKellar described as “madness” the hype around teenage rugby league player Joseph Suaalii, who is being courted by both Rugby Australia and NRL club South Sydney.
It summarised a disease he says has crept into the 15-man code in which pundits push the cause of young players when they show bare glimmers of talent.
Lock looms as a problem area for the Wallabies selectors this year following the departure of several experienced performers, but McKellar is unimpressed to see a host of rookies being thrown up as candidates.
Two of them are starting for the Brumbies against the Queensland Reds in Saturday’s table-topping Super Rugby AU match in Canberra.
However, Nick Frost and Darcy Swain aren’t yet ready for Wallabies duty, McKellar says, and nor are the likes of raw Melbourne Rebels pair Trevor Hosea and Esei Ha’angana, who have also earned some glowing reviews since the lockdown.
“I think in Australia, someone puts in a good performance and all of a sudden they’re the next Wallaby,” McKellar said.
“We’ve got to be a little bit more patient than that. It’s getting ridiculous there and it does the players no favours at all.
“Frost for example had a good solid game last week. Back it up this week. Do it for the next 50 games and if you sneak in a Test or two then you’re obviously playing well.
“You’re not going to be a good Test player off a good half an hour at Super Rugby level.”
The most left-field suggestion McKellar had heard was Suali’i could be a Wallabies bolter to face the All Blacks off the back of his freakish performances against schoolboy opposition.
“He’s a 16-year-old kid who’s getting a whole lot of pressure put on him at the moment that he doesn’t deserve either,” McKellar said.
“It’s an innocent family who are blessed with a whole lot of talent and ability and all of a sudden he’s in a position where league and union are both in a fight for him. It’d be a stressful time for him and for his family.
“We’re looking for a diamond in the rough all the time. Just let the players develop.”
– Daniel Gilhooly
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