In the bizarre dimension where sport meets marketing it’s actually pretty hard to get a straight answer on the AFL debuts of Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau.
Yes, their presence certainly gained more attention for the games in which they were involved, but after the final whistle blew you had to wonder whether that was actually a good thing.
If an athlete fails in the woods and nobody sees it, is he a flop?
Admittedly Karmichael Hunt’s performance was slightly overlooked by the sheer hammering his team was handed. He might have been out of his depth at AFL level but he certainly wasn’t Robinson Crusoe there.
As updated scores of the Suns utter humiliation rolled it was like being in a time warp back to the days when expansion teams full of locals were pummelled for the first few seasons, but for the last 20 years it has been the case that they’ve been given every leg up to be competitive from day one.
The AFL has certainly thrown some charity the Gold Coast’s way and there must be some concerns at headquarters that this team with its very expensive recruits is going to get blasted week in, week out.
But if the Suns were a nightmare, it only got worse with GWS.
The reserves game against the Swans was all about Folau and his effort would not have filled his investors with a huge amount of comfort.
Now, let’s be adults, surely no one was stupid enough to expect Folau to be completely dominant in the game or even look like he had a real handle on it. It is also childish to say that that one dreadful match deems the whole experiment a disaster.
But what it did show was that it was going to take a lot of time and lot of hardwork to get Folau upto AFL standard, but seeing Folau is being largely employed as a marketing tool it is fair to ask whether he will be given the same degree of time as any other nobody trying to make it in the AFL.
There have already been comparisons made to Mike Pyke of the Sydney Swans, but the difference is no one except his closest family actually knew who Mike Pyke was, he wasn’t brought in to sell the game to the game to Western Sydney.
Saying Pyke was a former Canadian rugby union player gives him about as much sporting profile in Sydney as an extra on Home and Away.
The Primary School visits will get pretty tiresome for Izzy if he has become a laughing stock of the game.
Apparently Folau is about showing the hordes of athletic Polynesian youths what a great game AFL is. It’s fair to say those developments officers were unlikely to have been swamped with enquiries on Monday morning.
The AFL machine has two fires to fight. One is the band of AFL analysts who are falling over themselves to bag the two converts and talk about what a disgraceful amount of money they are being paid. Those guys will no doubt be given the phone call about getting “on message”.
Stay by the phone Aker.
But what must be really concerning is that after one nightmare game, Folau is apparently already grumbling and already in talks with his manager about a move back to the NRL.
I’ve spoken to a number of sources who have all heard various rumours, these aren’t concrete offers (but they never are at this stage) but they also aren’t guys just talking jibberish after their fifth lunch time ale.
You could say where there is smoke there is fire.
My personal opinion is that if Folau is already looking to jump ship then that is an absolute disgrace and he should be shamed into completing his contract (and possibly be force to play a few games in the nude).
If he was personally so deluded that he thought he was going to have a Gary Ablett jnr impact on the match then he has clearly been talking to wrong people and the wrong people have been talking to him for a long time.
It’s highly unlikely the AFL would agree to any sort of release this early, so it’s unlikely to go anywhere but should we really be that surprised? Sport ceased being sport long ago.
Its 2011, players are bought to sell a game rather than play it, if you are a valuable enough commodity then every indiscretion is likely to be forgiven and every want catered for.
Not enjoying this ride as much as you thought? No bother, we’ll find someone who’ll take you in and you can talk about your excitement at the new challenge.
Whether NRL players can convert to AFL is a question that can only be answered over a long period of time. I doubt we’ll ever be afforded the patience.