Who wants a Wallaby wannabe
Tuesday, May 29 2012 @ 11:45 am ACST
Contributed by: Michael Christiansen
The AFL helped facilitate the recruitment of Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau from the NRL for obvious promotional reasons. There was an obvious time and place opportunity with new sides in both Queensland and Sydney that made this move viable. The question has remained about what circumstances might deliver another cross code recruit.
Does the AFL need to stump up big money, or are there players out there seeking the challenge? NSW Waratah’s and Wallabies player Lachie Turner has made some interesting comments around a desire to one day play in the AFL.
Reported in Sunday’s “The Sunday Telegraph”, Turner revealed that whilst he had had no official approach from any AFL club – that he had become ‘stale’ playing Union and was looking for a new challenge. Having watched on as both Hunt and Folau make progress – and that growing up, he had an expat Melbournian mate with whom he kicked the Sherrin around before he took to the Gilbert ball – Turner wondered whether he could do it and perhaps do better at the code conversion.
This apparently was serious enough in his mind that earlier this year he had spoken to teammates about a potential switch – however, it appears sitting on the sidelines after a hamstring injury in February has reignited his passion for Union and he has re-committed to the Waratahs for next year – taking up the option of the second year of his existing contract.
The question is raised of course of what marketing value Lachie Turner might bring to the table. Personally I’d never heard of him – however, to followers of Union that would not be the case. Turner also won a ‘fastest man in football’ sprint (defeating a field including Jarryd Hayne, Greg Inglis, Josh Morris and Ben Barba) .
At 25 now, and standing 189 cm and 96 kgs, he might be able to adapt quite readily. Would there be a club willing to take the chance? And while the Telegraph article predicts that Turner could still be 'hot property', I can't help but feel that by his committing to 2013 in Union that the time for Turner has probably been and gone now. However – that the interest of players is piqued illustrates some of opening of minds that the AFL no doubt sought from the procurement of Hunt and Folau.
The notion of such a mature age cross code recruit does though become less fanciful with the success of general muture age recruiting in recent times as well as the mid 20s conversion of Canadian Union player Mike Pyke, now rucking at the Swans. Pyke debuted at age 25 and now topping 28 is in his 4th year at the Swans. That Pyke came to footy without any background is distinct to Turner who reportedly enjoys the game and regularly attends Swans matches. The notion of a top quality player being able to make a rapid transition and impact almost immediately was put forward in late March in the Sydney Morning Herald by NRL expert Roy Masters as he profiled Melbourne Storm's Billy Slater. According to Masters "AFL coaches have told me Slater would be an instant hit in their code." Perhaps a Lachie Turner might be similarly regarded?
However - the chance to procure a Wallaby might not be a big enough marketing coup to risk off-siding the ARU with whom the AFL has generally seemed to have a reasonable working relationship of not scheduling head to head. James O'Conner perhaps might be another story?