For a team that is yet to hold its first training session, let alone play a match, the Gold Coast Titans have managed to achieve extensive publicity with the “possibility” that Jonah Lomu will join the Titans next year.
Even the Daily Telegraph devoted close to a full page to the story yesterday – it has even pushed Willie Mason out of the headlines on television. Was that the real agenda? There are aspects of the sudden interest the Titans have in a rugby union legend that tests the story’s credibility.
Firstly, it is 11 years since Lomu was at his dominant best during the 1995 World Cup. Two years ago he had a kidney transplant after being close to death. His rugby union career has hardly recovered from an illness that is debilitating for anyone, let alone an international footballer. He could not find a regular position in the North Harbour provincial – yes, provincial – team in Auckland this year. He has not been offered a contract by any of the five NZ teams in the 2007 Super 14 competition, and as a result, is not even under consideration for the All Blacks squad for next year’s rugby World Cup. So rugby league is hardly recruiting a union player at his “prime” – or anywhere near it.
But the credibility of the Titans’ move really came under question when the CEO told the media, with a straight face, that the Titans wanted to give Lomu the chance to be a “dual international”, implying that he would get a walk-up start into the Kiwis’ Test team. One of the most respected medicos in sport, Swans doctor Nathan Gibbs, has described any switch to the Titans as “madness” given Lomu’s medical condition.
The meeting yesterday between Lomu and the Titans was inconclusive. A decision may be ten days away.
Lomu and his wife were shouted lunch at the Gold Coast’s premier resort and given a helicopter view of the Gold Coast. The Titans received massive publicity at the very time it is launching its season ticket campaign for 2007. A happy coincidence?
And that is where the Lomu and rugby league story should end. A good PR exercise, full stop.