Former Brisbane Bronco and Rugby Union convert Wendell Sailor is back in the news today, as speculation increases that St George Illawarra are close to signing the big winger.
With Sailor being based in Sydney now, and serving a drug suspension until May 2008 – it looked likely that Sailor would join Souths or Saints as opposed to going North to link up with the Broncos again.
Wendell Sailor will be 32 next year and the pressure will be intense on the one time game breaker to perform as all eyes will be on the ex-Rugby flank man. When Sailor left to play Rugby he was arguably the most powerful wide runner in the NRL, and previously as part of the Broncos back three – he would almost always bust the first tackle and then require an army to subdue him.
Will Wendell still have the fitness and skill to be a contender in the NRL? The Saints must think so, former Wallaby team mate Matt Rogers seems to have made the successful return to top line NRL – as with every game Rogers is improving and honing his once Kangaroo jersey earning skill.
Wendell is slightly older than Rogers, and his build has blown out slightly from the speedy wing days. Wendell claims to be training hard on his lonesome, but there really is no substitute for regimented NRL team sessions. As Wendell Sailor and Matt Rogers have claimed, the training and fitness requirements for the 15 man Rugby game fail in comparison to the high demands of weekly NRL.
Saints have hinted they will push Sailor into the forwards which makes sense, the big man able to take advantage of substitutions where possible. Injury is of concern to someone at Wendell’s age, just as Jason Smith has been nursed through the final few years of NRL maybe the same would be suitable for Sailor. He has been fairly durable in the past, and any team willing to sign him would surely build a safety net into any contract to cover for extended outages. St George should be building this into all of their players contracts, as they all seem to be watching games from the sidelines these days.
The experience and presence alone of Wendell Sailor at St George Illawarra will greatly help a team struggling for senior players, and he is someone that can implement coaches gameplans as proved in Brisbane. The negative for Wendell is that he won’t have the quality all around him as he did in his Broncos days. The forward pack and surrounding backs Wendell played alongside at the Broncos – where absolute world beaters and this had to assist his game. It’s also tough moving into the engine room of the forwards, its not glamorous work – certainly for someone with no experience there, that’s used to streaking down the sideline and scoring all the points.
There is no denying Wendell’s ability and I am sure he would be his own biggest critic, he will also be well prepared for all the media attention should he hit the NRL field again. Sailors profile will help the NRL, proving once again that Rugby League is the preferred game for players who have tried both codes.
Is Wendell taking a gamble by coming back for one more stint? I don’t think so. With everybody waiting for Wendell Sailor to fail, it will be the perfect motivation for the media loving big man – to train harder, push the boundaries and prove most pundits wrong in 2008.