“When news came out he’s signed in France, there was always the possibility it would become too difficult for him to contribute to us. It’s been a really sad loss for us. It just became apparent it was the right thing to do. We’ve had a good send-off for him.”
In a media release, Beale said it was “bittersweet” to be leaving NSW. Australian director of rugby Scott Johnson said the 31-year-old could still be on the Wallabies’ radar given he has passed the 60-Test threshold for overseas-based players.
Johnson’s statement is in sharp contrast to new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie’s tone on Monday.
He remains eligible for the Wallabies and if his form warrants it he will certainly come into calculations for selection.
Scott Johnson on Kurtley Beale
Rennie left Beale out of a players-of-interest squad this year and said he was not keen on picking players at French clubs for national duty.
“He remains eligible for the Wallabies and if his form warrants it he will certainly come into calculations for selection,” Johnson said.
Penney said Jack Maddocks would likely have first crack at fullback for the Waratahs’ clash next Friday against the Queensland Reds.
However, Mason, the one NSW player who has been based in Queensland during COVID-19, won’t be eligible.
Mason, 24, went about his business in Foley’s shadow for years. It was thought this season would be his chance to make the Waratahs’ No.10 jersey his own, having had sporadic opportunities in recent years.
Mason debuted in 2017 after receiving a late call-up against the Crusaders. A few months later he trotted around in Melbourne as part of an extended Wallabies squad.
Even at the beginning of this year, Mason was the frontrunner to take over from Foley at five-eighth.
He started in January’s trial against the Highlanders but injured his groin in another practice game against the Reds off the bench.
Now he is nowhere to be seen and without a contract for next year, after being leapfrogged by Randwick duo Will Harrison and Ben Donaldson in the pecking order.
The Waratahs say Mason was granted permission to explore employment opportunities on the farm back home in Queensland while continuing a strength and conditioning program from afar. He is still contracted until November but hasn’t been called back to Sydney to train with the main squad.
It appears very unlikely the Waratahs will offer Mason a new deal.
Mason started twice in 2019, once in a 31-30 loss to the Sunwolves in Newcastle and then again during a 49-12 defeat to the Highlanders in the final match of the season.
“I got hung out to dry a little bit but that was on my own performance,” Mason said in January of the Sunwolves game. “That was probably the only week I’ve really thought that [I’m] really struggling.”
Mason was the victim of poor timing during a long apprenticeship.
He stayed loyal to the Waratahs when Foley was still chief playmaker but also failed to take his chances when they presented.
Tom Decent is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald