At the beginning of the year, while envisaging a pre-COVID season, Dave Rennie explicitly highlighted that Michael Hooper would need to earn his starting Wallabies position and captaincy, which had previously been bestowed without question.
Few people know what’s going through Israel Folau’s mind. But if anyone can imagine what the isolation feels like, it’s Karmichael Hunt.
In vastly different circumstances to Folau’s, Hunt also found himself frozen out from his Super Rugby team last year, when at the Queensland Reds before being handed a career lifeline at the NSW Waratahs.
“You rely on your family, your friends, your teammates,” Hunt said on Thursday.
Hence Hunt has been in contact with Folau, while also checking on the Wallabies star through Folau’s younger brother John, who remains at the Waratahs.
It’s over a month since Folau was stood down by Rugby Australia over his controversial social media posts and the wait continues to learn if he’ll be sacked after being found to have committed a high-level code of conduct breach.
“As a collective here at the Waratahs, I know from speaking to the guys, we’re holding up our end of the bargain and we’re making sure that he’s doing okay away from footy in the position he’s in now,” Hunt said.
“I know his family – I was speaking to Johnny this morning – they’re doing as much as they can for Izzy as well.
“That’s all you can do in situations like this when there’s a process that has to be taken and a decision has to be handed down.
“All you can do is support and I have been in contact. Regardless of the situation, he’s still our friend, he’s still our teammate and he’s someone that we care about.
“So I’ve just been checking in on him and making sure that he’s doing okay and that his head space is doing okay and, from what I’m getting from him, he seems fine, which is a pleasing thing.”
Hunt admitted the most divisive issue in Australian sport was fascinating, if also a great shame.
“This is definitely a first,” he said.
“It’s a very complex issue…it’s definitely something I haven’t experienced and I don’t think the sporting landscape hasn’t experienced.
“The only thing that comes to mind is the Colin Kapernick situation over in the States, which I wasn’t intimately involved in but I was keeping an eye on it and it was a pretty polarising event.”
Folau’s day of reckoning is now expected to come on Friday.