Back to the beginning for Wycliff Palu

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wycliff Palu won't be playing rugby for Australia any more but after 58 Tests, the stalwart's next step is at the other end of the pathway.

Palu ended his international career with little fanfare, feeling like he already had his fair share of farewells last season, when he was scheduled to head to Japan, before a hamstring injury redirected his route and brought him back to NSW and the Waratahs.

“It was just time to retire from international rugby,” he said on Friday.

“I’ve been so grateful to get all the opportunities that I’ve been given through all the coaches and the opportunity to play in the gold jersey.

“I didn’t want it to be a big fuss because I kind of did it last year, people are probably sick of me,” he laughed.

Wycliff Palu preparing for the 2015 World Cup. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyHe surprised Cheika with his decision in a regulation post-series chat and then promptly headed off for the next chapter, with Japanese Top League side, Toyota Verblitz.

Palu has been in casual talks with the Waratahs about going into Western Sydney and being involved with development programs and connecting with junior rugby programs.

“I’ve been talking with Cheik and the Waratahs and I guess once I’m done here hopefully I'll come back and help out some of the Western Sydney teams, help the game, help the development.

"I'm looking forward to it and it’s something I’m passionate about.

“I’ve been given a lot by rugby and I would like to see the game grow.”

One of the game’s hardest workers, who has garnered respect from teammates and coaches alike, knows it only takes one chance to change your life and he wants to help return the favour.

Wycliff Palu wants to give back to the rugby community. Photo: Getty Images“I don’t think I was that talented, I never played any age group I was lucky enough to get an opportunity from one coach and take it and run with it,” he said.

“In Western Sydney in the islander community, they’ve got a lot of talent but they’re probably not the guided the right way or have the right pathway.

“Not everyone’s going to be a Wallaby but at least they’ll probably get ahead in life and a lot better in life if they're involved in sport.

“I’m really thankful for rugby - it’s given me a lot and I really want to pay the game back.”

Wycliff Palu has been a Wallabies stalwart. Photo: Getty ImagesPalu has been living in Western Sydney in recent years and knows firsthand the growth opportunity that is in the area, one that rugby has made no secret of wanting to harness.

“I’ve lived out there for the last couple of years lived out there and other than Izzy Folau not many of the kids would even know who the captain of the Wallabies is,” he said.

“That’s how untapped it is - the more of a presence there is out there to help the game grow, the better.

“It’s not just about going out there to give them balls, it’s about putting time into the kids that are already playing the game and draw them into the game.”

It’s an indication of the way Palu holds himself that Michael Cheika was the one to announce his international retirement, with the 34-year-old already out of the country.

The Wallabies coach, who also mentored Palu in his time at the Waratahs, was effusive in his praise of one of Australia’s long-time battering rams.

"He's one of the greatest servants we have, he's done so much for Australian rugby, he shouldn’t be shifting out the side door to Japan,” he said.

"He’s been one of the great players I've coached not only because of the way he plays the game but his attitude towards the team and what he does for the team, all class and always understated, never looking for a headline."