Sydney to chase Bernard Foley for clash with NSW Country

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Sydney Rays will inquire whether they can draft in Wallabies star Bernard Foley to play for them against NSW Country Eagles in the NRC derby next Wednesday.

The Shute Shield final forced the round one match to be postponed and changed to a mid-week fixture at Leichhardt Oval.

It means both Sydney and NSW Country will have to play three games in eight days but it could also open the door for Wallabies squad members to return ahead of their departure for South Africa next Saturday.

Foley will play off the bench against the Pumas on Saturday night, and though he has never played in the NRC, it could shape as a chance for the NSW no.10 to get some game time and press his claims.

Foley is not one of the Rays' officially allocated Wallabies - indeed he is theoretically aligned to Country - but the Rays are light on when it comes to playmakers and the Eagles have Mack Mason.

It is understood if all parties agreed to Foley playing for Sydney, there would be no objections from tournament organisers.

Will Harrison will skipper the Aussie Schoolboys again on Saturday. Photo: ARU MediaLast year’s schoolboys captain Will Harrison played 10 for the Rays in their season opener and is the only specialist flyhalf on their books this season.

Shute Shield-winning Sydney Uni flyhalf Stu Dunbar took up an offer in New Zealand and a number of other club prospects were unable to balance full-time jobs with NRC commitments.

The Eagles have Foley’s NSW understudy Mason in their squad as well as Souths playmaker Rohan Saifoloi.

Rays coach Chris Whitaker is open to the idea of Test players slotting back into NRC sides and said he’d welcome Foley’s involvement if it came about.

“I'd let any Wallaby, not because I don't respect and think the guys we've got are good, it's because to give an opportunity for the other players to play with someone like Bernard Foley, (for) guys who play club footy, is enormous,” he said.

“The experience they gain playing alongside someone like Bernard Foley is massive.

“The 12 (Enoka Muliufi), if he got to play outside someone like Bernard Foley, imagine the things he could learn off him.

“He's played for the Wallabies - if he came back down to the Sydney team, he deserves to play for us and not be on the bench type of thing.”

This week, they’ve shifted Norths 12 Harry Burey into 10 to go up against Brisbane City’s Quade Cooper and Whitaker said that made developing their young 10s even more important.

“There's guys who have gone to New Zealand to play, there's opportunity over there, there's guys who have got full-time jobs and they can't commit,” Whitaker said.

“It's tough because here you're kind of mixing the amateur with a professional club and some people just can't do it.

“In saying that, our job is to bring this next level of players up - the Ben Donaldsons, the Will Harrisons, these guys, need to get them up.

“They've only played colts this year, so this is probably two levels up from what they're used to playing but it's our job to get it up to that level as quick as you can because they're the players of the future.”

The Rays nearly had a Wallaby in their round one team after Rob Simmons was named to play for the team but the lock had to jump on a last-minute flight to Brisbane after Adam Coleman was a late Wallabies scratching.

Jack Dempsey will make his rugby return through the Rays on Saturday after he was named on the bench to take on City.

The Rays and Eagles have the added challenge next week of playing three games in the space of eight days, with matches on Saturday and Sunday week book-ending their Wednesday night clash.

The Rays take on Brisbane City at Woollahra Oval on Saturday September 15, kicking off at 2:30pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS.