Fridays Rugby News sees the return of the Hair Bear, CTE, Changes to the Wallabies and Coach Campo.
The Hair Bear Is Back
The Hair Bear is my daughter’s pet name for her favourite player Tatafu Polota-Nau. TPN was minding his own business in Leicester when an unknown number turned up on his phone. Tatafu had figured his days in gold were over so he hadn’t bothered to give his number to the Wallabies coach. But that didn’t stop Cheika hunting down his man.
Even though TPN wasn’t keen on a farewell tour he was a bit peeved with how he’d played last year. So it seems it didn’t take too much cajoling to talk the powerfull hooker into one last tilt at a possible World Cup.
“I am quite shocked to be back here,” the 89-Test veteran hooker told reporters
Knee surgery in the English off-season behind him, Polota-Nau rates himself a chance to feature at Suncorp Stadium and push younger hooking options like in-form Folau Fainga’a ahead of September’s World Cup in Japan.
“It ended with a sour note last season … I sort of thought it was my last with the Wallabies,” he said.
“I didn’t have the stamina I used to have, but that’s because my preparation wasn’t the best.
“It’s from my end just to see if I’ve still got it … give these guys (younger hookers) a run for their money.”
I think that he’s a good chance of making the world cup squad. There are a lot of good young hookers on the up in Australian rugby but all of them a very short on experience. If TPN can show decent form through the TRC surely he’s a shoo-in?
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
Known as CTE for us everyday Humans. Tatafu Polota-Nau had a big week in the papers. We’ve all seen him sprawled out after one of his many head knocks and wondered what kind of long term damage they were doing to him. Tpn has over 250 top-level games at the coal face under his belt, quite an achievement by anyone’s standards. But it’s also plenty of chances to do long term damage.
Tatafu was pretty relieved that the first known case of CTE had come to light in Australia.
“To be honest, I’m glad it’s being looked at because I feel like … I watched a documentary about the NFL tackling the case, because obviously it started in the 70s and has caught up with them now,” he said.
“It’s great that it’s being addressed because there’s more to life than just playing the game of rugby. A lot of guys have families that they need to look after too post-rugby, so I’m just really happy that it’s being addressed.”
Polota-Nau is something of an early adopter in this space, having struck up a relationship with Sydney neurology professor John Watson back in 2013. A year later he told the Herald he was considering donating his brain to science to help research efforts in the area.
Remarkably, Polota-Nau’s annual check-ins with Watson have never uncovered anything troubling – although the Wallaby is careful to point out that does not preclude issues arising further down the track.
CTE is a pretty crap disease. Symptoms don’t appear until years after the injury and the only way to confirm it is by brain biopsy after the patient’s death. First-stage symptoms include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as well as confusion, disorientation, dizziness, and headaches. Second-stage symptoms include memory loss, social instability, impulsive behaviour, and poor judgment. Third and fourth stages include progressive dementia, movement disorders, hypomimia, speech impediments, sensory processing disorder, tremors, vertigo, deafness, depression and suicidality.
Lilo Back In Gold!
Everyone loves a good news story and Christian Leali’ifano’s return to the Wallabies is at the top of my list right now. Diagnosed with Leukemia in 2016, he missed the next 11 months of rugby before returning for the Brumbies quarter-final loss in 2017. His game has been steadily getting better ever since.
Back in the side alongside Lilo are Scott Sio, Will Genia, Marika Koroibete and Kurtley Beale in the starting side and former wild child James O’Connor in the reserves. Lilo’s inclusion at the expense of Bernard Foley and Sio for Slipper might be seen as 50-50 calls but the others are all positives in my book.
Lealiifano has been named at five-eighth in partnership with halfback Will Genia, who got the nod over Nic White.
“He’s had a great season in Super Rugby. I think he’s definitely deserved the opportunity now to play,” Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said of Lealiifano.
Campo for the Tahs?
News today that David Campese has thrown his hat into the ring for the vacant Waratahs job. Campo has a vast knowledge of the game but somehow has failed to win the hearts of the Australian public since the heady highs of his playing days.
“I think it’s my time in life now… coached overseas many times,” states Wallabies legend David Campese.
The winger and fullback famous for his “goosestep” played 101 caps for the Wallabies including his “player of the tournament” efforts in the winning 1991 Rugby World Cup campaign.
“It’s really about getting the players the skill factor and confidence that they can attack under pressure instead of just trying to hit the ball up under the pressure and not back our strengths which was our exciting backline,” state Campese.
He believes the All Blacks and Crusaders are sticking to a style the Wallabies used to play during the dominant era of Australian Rugby.
Club rugby is the best academy… get them all playing the same style get them confident, so these guys are hungry wanting to play for NSW instead of going overseas,”
What do Waratahs fan think? Is Camp the next Waratahs coach?