Israel Folau has declared himself a fish back in water after starring in his debut for the NSW Waratahs in a Super Rugby trial.
The former rugby league international and short-term AFL player bagged two tries, had a hand in another and was even yellow-carded in an eventful 24-16 win over the Melbourne Rebels in Hobart.
After two years trying to find his feet with AFL’s Greater Western Sydney, Folau said he felt right in his third professional football code.
“I felt really comfortable to be quite honest,” he told reporters at North Hobart Oval.
“It’s like I never left a game like rugby.
“I felt really relaxed throughout the day and that’s the way I felt coming into the game.”
Asked if he’d missed that feeling of dominating a game, he said: “I’ve missed it for two years.”
Starting at fullback, Folau reaped the rewards of Waratahs coach Michael Cheika’s new attacking brand of rugby.
He was rarely called to kick and announced himself to the rugby world when he swerved to beat three defenders in just the 12th minute.
The celebration said plenty with the former Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos star punching the air with delight before being embraced by his new teammates.
Folau repeated the dose with the last play of the match, beating two to cross in the left corner while playing outside centre.
He might have had a third try in the 34th minute but unselfishly offloaded for winger Cam Crawford when he could easily have crossed himself.
“That last try I just found myself in the right spot at the right time,” he said.
“I think today I can learn a lot from the game and there’s certainly a long way to go in terms of learning a few things in both attack and defence.”
Cheika was delighted with the performance of his new star, who also spent time on both wings.
“Positionally (at fullback) he was probably in much better sync than I thought he might be,” Cheika said.
“Obviously his natural talent showed on a couple of occasions very well and I think he looked pretty comfortable really.
“All he has to do is enjoy himself and make our team and his talent will do the rest from there.”
Folau was yellow-carded in the 54th minute and admitted he’d understood little about his breakdown offence.
“I was a bit confused but once I got off and the boys explained it,” he said.
Compounding the four tries to two loss for the Rebels was a suspected fracture to Cooper Vuna’s right shoulder blade.
“With our top side I thought we were competitive but those young blokes, they’ll learn from that and the experience will be good for them,” assistant coach John Muggleton said.