Will he still be a force? Has the 2 year ban not only allowed his body and mind to freshen up, but does the passion and quest for success still drive the big man?
Before leaving the Rugby Union, Wendell Sailor was in the Top 5 NRL players going around. A big, strong winger and a crucial part of the Brisbane Broncos machine – Wendell could virtually always beat at least 1 tackle everytime he touched the ball. After taking the big dollars to play Rugby Union, Wendell probably didn’t achieve the heights he had hoped. The talented ball runner saw little of the action and probably didn’t fit in with the ‘boys club’ that is so common in Union circles.
Wendell Sailor found this out first hand, when reports suggest several of Rugby Union’s ‘in-crowd’ were also involved in drug taking – but Sailor refused to dump his colleagues in the mess he has since fought his way through.
Thrown a lifeline by Nathan Brown and the St George Illawarra Dragons, Wendell is expected to sign the official paperwork this Monday and be ready for a first grade call up when needed.
Reportedly training hard on his own, those close to Sailor feel the former Broncos winger is itching at the chance to prove himself again – and should be a success. Not only prove he can climb to the top of the NRL ranks, but show his former Rugby Union bosses and colleagues that he was made a scape goat and still had plenty to offer.
The fact that his aging body has had 2 years to rest and recover along with his burning desire to redeem himself, the chances are pretty good Wendell Sailor will be a resounding success.
Things are starting to pan out well for the former winger, expected to this season play in the forwards – should he prove successful in his comeback and form remains good into next year, his old coach Wayne Bennett is set to take the reigns at the Dragons next year and the old Broncos partnership could be rekindled.
Even Sailor’s ex-Maroons teammate Smith said he could even figure in Queensland’s Origin plans in 2009, but he did not rule out a call-up this year. Certainly a big call and a massive mark of respect for big Wendell
“Maybe not this year, but Wendell looks after himself pretty well and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility if Queensland lost a game or two and Wendell was playing well for St George Illawarra,” Smith said.
“There are eight weeks until the third State of Origin so he has enough time to prove himself, especially if the Dragons give him a chance at NRL level.
“I’ve had first-hand experience with the loyalty Queensland selectors have to blokes who have done the job in the past. I can’t see why there would not be a jersey there for Queensland for him next year. I can see him having three good years in the NRL.”
The Dragons have sounded out Burleigh Bears as a possible Queensland Cup launch pad for Sailor’s NRL comeback.
Sailor said last month that he hoped to be used as a winger despite media speculation last year that his league future might rest in the back row.
Smith was the oldest player in the NRL last year before he retired at the age of 35 years and six months, and he is well placed to judge the effect age is likely to have on Sailor.
Brent Tate, 26, and Greg Inglis, 21, are the incumbent Queensland wingers, with Israel Folau, 19, bidding to move Inglis to the centres, his Test position, for the May 21 Origin series opener.
“Wendell will be fresh after two years off and all that time in union,” Wiki said.
“He has played for his state and country in league and rugby for the Wallabies. I think he can come back as good as ever as long as he’s got the passion to play footy.
“He was a great player in league and union too but it’s good he’s come back to the real game.”
Allan Langer remains the oldest Origin player, as he was a month short of his 36th birthday in his last game for Queensland in 2002.
Smith said that Sailor would harbour private doubts about his ability to replicate what he used to do on the field