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How NRL club fumbled a deal with multi-sport talent that sent him to Waratahs

By Finn Morton
Tane Edmed of the Waratahs runs out ahead of the round three Super Rugby Pacific match between NSW Waratahs and Highlanders at Allianz Stadium, on March 08, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Tane Edmed broke down during an emotional interview at Leichhardt Oval two years ago. After following in his father’s footsteps by playing at the venue in Sydney’s inner-west, Edmed fought back the tears after leading the Waratahs to a famous win over the Crusaders.

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The then-21-year-old had played rugby league as a junior at the nearby Blackmore Oval, and Edmed’s father Steve represented the Balmain Tigers more than 130 times during a distinguished NRL career. There was plenty of meaning and reason behind the emotion Edmed showed that night.

Edmed became an overnight sensation on social media after displaying candid passion, pride and appreciation for what it meant to play in the sky blue jersey in front of family and friends. But the playmaker’s life and professional career could’ve been a lot different.

As a schoolboy, Edmed was “obsessed” with cricket. The multi-sport athlete had a final scholarship interview as an 11-year-old at Sydney’s prestigious Trinity Grammar School. Edmed went on to represent the school’s First XI as early as Year 9.

But then, rugby union came knocking.

“I just played league and cricket growing up and then was a massive, massive cricketer, I was obsessed. I love my cricket,” Edmed told RugbyPass last month.

“Kind of got into Trinity on the basis of cricket but I played a little bit of rugby and I was still a decent rugby player but it was mostly cricket.

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“I got a bit bigger, a bit stronger in year 11 and then started to play some decent footy in year 12  and get picked in some rep stuff, and then the cricket fell by the wayside.

“I just started taking rugby and rugby league a lot more seriously. I got some good opportunities along the way and here I am I guess.”

Edmed showed signs of promise in rugby union. The young first five would go on to make New South Wales Schoolboys and the Australian Barbarians but appeared lost to the 15-player game at one point.

Before even playing a game in his senior year at Trinity Grammar, Edmed put pen to paper with the Wests Tigers U20s. But there was a problem.

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Finn Morton spoke with Tane Edmed about his decision to choose rugby union over the NRL. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

The Tigers saw Edmed as a hooker/dummy half in rugby league, but the Sydneysider “wanted to play in the halves.” So, when Rugby Australia and the NSW Waratahs offered the teenager a deal, Edmed felt it was a “natural decision” to choose rugby over league.

“I guess that was before I got given some opportunities to kind of progress in union,” Edmed explained.

“Coming out of school I’d made New South Wales Schoolboys and Aussie seconds – Aussie Barbarians – and then got offered a contract from Rugby Australia and the Waratahs to do sevens and U20s for the Tahs.

“I was really enjoying my union, enjoying playing fly-half. I felt like the program at the Waratahs and Rugby Australia was a lot stronger than what was being offered by the 20s at Tigers.

“It was a natural decision for me to have a crack at union just because of the quality of the program I was going into and the fact that I was playing fly-half and really enjoying my rugby.”

After impressing with the prestigious Sydney club Randwick in colts, Edmed debuted for the NSW Waratahs on the 19th of February 2021 against arch-rivals the Queensland Reds.

Edmed played 25 minutes off the pine in the opening round of that Super Rugby AU season, and he played another nine matches off the bench across that competition and Super Rugby Trans-Tasman that year.

Former Junior Wallabies ace Will Harrison was seen as the preferred choice at the Sydney-based club for a while, but after receiving a maiden start against the Reds the following year, Edmed didn’t really look back.

Including Friday night’s blockbuster against the Crusaders –the same side the Tahs beat at Leichhardt Oval – Edmed has started 23 of his last 27 Waratahs matches as the team’s primary playmaker.

Playing against the Crusaders earlier this year, Edmed scored 17 points during an upset win over the defending champions at Melbourne’s AAMI Park. It’s no wonder the Waratah has been discussed as a potential Wallabies bolter in the race for the No. 10 jersey.

“I really try my best to not ignore it but I do my best to keep that out of my thinking,” Edmed explained.

“I don’t follow any rugby pages on social media and do my best not to look at any rugby articles because it’s interesting, you play one good game and people think you’re ready for the Wallabies and then the next week, someone plays good and they think they’re ready.

“I think it’s just all a bit much for me. I really do my best to try and not read into it at all.

Finn Morton spoke with Tane Edmed about the Waratahs’ disappointing run of results. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

“At the end of the day, if you’re getting wins for the Waratahs and you’re playing well then that will then that will look after itself – I guess that’s a bonus.”

Even with all this talk, Edmed’s father is still brought up quite often when talking about his son’s talent and potential as possibly a future Wallaby first five.

They didn’t even play the same sport, and for that, Steve Edmed “hated the fact that he comes up” from time to time, but Tane doesn’t see it that way.

“It didn’t come into my thinking, trying to get out of my dad’s shadow per say.

“But if anything it motivates me to do well because even though he hates it I kind of love it because he’s the reason I’m where I’m at today.

“It doesn’t bother me whatsoever when those comparisons are made because firstly, we didn’t really play a similar position – he was a prop and I’m a fly-half.

“It doesn’t really affect me at all. I actually kind of like it because I like hearing about him and it’s a testament to him and how he raised me and how he’s coached me through the years.”

Since inspiring the Waratahs to a 37-24 win over the Crusaders in round two, New South Wales’ favourite rugby union team has failed to register another win.

Edmed had a chance to beat the Highlanders the following week in Sydney with a penalty attempt after the siren, but the shot at goal missed the mark.

The fly-half has a genuine “love” for the club, so that missed shot hurt. Much like that win over the Crusaders a couple of years ago, but for two very different reasons, Edmed choked up and fought back the tears.

“Obviously as a kicker you want to be the guy that stands up and takes those opportunities by the scruff of the neck. Even though I was extremely disappointed, I’m still proud that I was that guy.

“You want them to go over but sometimes it’s not always the case.

“It was disappointing but then to bounce back and realise that there’s another game of footy to play every week is something that I’ve matured over the years and realised as a goal-kicker it’s not always going to go your way.

“It’s a massive privilege to wear the sky blue every week and you obviously want to do the best you can which is why it’s so frustrating… we haven’t had three wins instead of three losses.

“At the end of the day you can try as hard as you want but that’s how you validate the fans is by getting wins on the board and we haven’t quite done that so we’re looking to do that.”

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