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ESPN SCRUM / ESPNscrum Columnist
Greg Growden
Greg Growden | Columnist Index
After more than 30 years with The Sydney Morning Herald and Fairfax Media in Australia, Greg Growden now writes exclusively online for ESPNscrum. Never afraid to step on toes, you can expect plenty of compelling insight from one of Australia's most renowned rugby writers.
The Growden Report
ARU clanger could cost them dearly
Greg Growden
April 14, 2014
Folau was left frustrated after the ARU withdrew him from the Waratahs' match © Getty Images
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As the farcical circumstances surrounding Israel Folau's forced withdrawal from the Waratahs line-up continue to emerge, the only person connected to the Australian Rugby Union with reputation intact is the player himself.

The phrase 'connected to the Australian Rugby Union' may also soon be wrong as Folau has every right to depart its ranks considering how shoddy the national body has treated him. Nobody should under-estimate Folau's comments over the weekend about a "six month" break, as it could easily lead him back to rugby league. It is widely known that the Sydney Roosters NRL club wants Folau.

Also full marks for Folau for having the courage in bluntly telling all what he thought of the ARU, and its unprecedented decision to go over the top of the Waratahs medical staff and force him out of the Western Force match due to a throat injury.

The ARU know that their players will keep quiet when they're unhappy about official bungling- and that is often. That's the power of being the employer, and determining the size of a player contract. The player is naturally worried that if he says anything derogatory about the ARU, there goes a huge pay packet. The employers know how to flaunt that power.

Maybe that's why the players involved in the Dublin affair during last year's end-of-season Wallaby tour continue to be deeply infuriated about how they were targeted and disciplined, but haven't said anything publicly.

Western Force's defence paved the way for their victory in Perth (video in Australia only
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So good on Folau for telling it as it is.

He appeared on the FoxSport telecast before the Waratahs-Force kickoff and said: "Obviously I'm very disappointed and frustrated at this stage but the ARU have made a decision and I'm not happy with it. "

"The whole situation, I'm very confused with at this stage. I think I know how I feel as a person, how my body operates and just going by what the specialists have said this week, I'm very confident in myself that I can go out and play."

Then the real clanger.

He confirmed he had no contact with the ARU for 'the whole week', as he continued training with the Waratahs in Perth, who had ruled him fit to play several days before the game. Then the ARU medical staff came in over the top and made its extraordinary decision.

Pity the ARU did not show similar courage to Folau and inform him that they were forcing him out of the Force match. Folau said the ARU rang him after the official decision was made; but not before.

This is not a wise move if you want to keep your No. 1 draw card happy. Where is the respect?

The ARU are naturally worried about Folau's health- as after all he is the Wallaby who sucks the punters through the turnstiles. Without Folau, ARU boss Bill Pulver and Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie knows that Test gate takings will slump dramatically, at a time when the supposedly cash-strapped organisation keeps crying poor.

So you should do everything you can to keep your key asset contented. That includes actually talking to him- not after the event, but before. That's what smart, responsible sporting officials do.

As Folau said: "In this situation I think I'm the most important person. I haven't spoken to any of them. I'm very disappointed with it."

Folau also told the Sunday Telegraph: "What is extremely frustrating for me is that nobody from the ARU spoke to me before ruling me out."

"I wish they'd given me the courtesy of at least calling me before making a decision that impacts my playing career."

Only after the decision was made did Pulver ring Folau, who has every right to be infuriated. Adding to Folau and his Waratahs colleague's anger is that while their coach Michael Cheika vehemently pushed his case, they was unable to gain support from high ranking Waratahs officials back in Sydney. Several suddenly 'went missing.'

And yes, former Wallaby winger Drew Mitchell made a valid point when he tweeted: "If the QantasWallabies were playing the AllBlacks this weekend, would the medical staff still have rested IzzyFolau?"

For those at the ARU who go on about how they are so concerned about player welfare, it's worth reminding them of a dreadful moment during the Wallabies- British & Irish Lions Test in Sydney last year.

Remember a clearly affected George Smith being allowed by the ARU medical staff to return to the field after he had been earlier knocked senseless from a head knock.

As Smith later said: ''It obviously affected me. You saw me snake dancing off the field."

Hardly a steady leg for the ARU to stand on during an unnecessary fiasco which could easily see Folau leave the game in disgust and return to the league ranks.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Join the conversation with Greg on Twitter @GregGrowden

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