Time is relentless. Contrary to sports mythology, it never stops. You can never go back, but you can remember and learn, and there’s no more brutal classroom than Eden Park with 90 seconds left in a Super Rugby semi-final when you have a point behind on the dashboard.
Noah Lolesio’s brain made a decision, there was little harm in executing it. The Brumbies flyhalf’s drop goal attempt left the boot just wide right, then was brutally cut off by Ofa Tu’ungafasi’s meaty claws.
You are 22 years old, an illustrious and long-term career is certainly available but is not yet assured. How do you handle this?
Humor is a form of medicine.
“If it goes up an inch and past the middle, he’s probably asking for another zero [on his contract]“, joked his Brumbies teammate Nic White on Thursday.
When Lolesio caught up with Quade Cooper at the Wallabies camp, he says the veteran had “a little joke with me. He asked me if I thought I had hit him well and if it was okay anymore. And I was like, ‘oh yeah sure!’ Guess we’ll never know, huh? »
The pain that immediately ensued required another type of treatment. Time is relentless but also healing.
“When you’re on the pitch, rugby is a pretty fast game and you have to make decisions very quickly,” says Lolesio.
“I was planning in my head to go for the drop kick, but I probably got the ball earlier than expected. So I had the plan but I didn’t realize someone was in front of me.
“I backed up and went for the drop goal and it obviously got charged which sucked.
“I certainly learned from that. To be completely honest, it took me three, three or four days to recover from it, because I know it was such an important part of the game.
“I really felt like I let my team-mates down, which is not what you want to do. I obviously miss that.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned in rugby is that you have to have a short-term memory when stuff like this happens. I’m here now and that’s all that matters.
His teammates and his coaching staff – they all made mistakes too – came together with support. During the season he exchanged texts with next year’s manager Stephen Larkham, who scored the most famous drop goal in Australian rugby history.
Rather than being a moment of weakness, White sees the missed drop goal as a show of Lolesio’s strength.
“In these big moments, you want guys like Noah to want the ball,” White says. “The last thing you want is for someone to come into their shell and be scared of those big moments. That was a real positive.
“It’s important that a guy like Noah, he’s had a lot of those moments now and he still wants the ball. We talked about it straight after the game and it was about ‘mate, it’ is great that you want it.”
Failure happens to every athlete, the answer is what matters.
“Go to the last dance,” White said of the Chicago Bulls documentary. “Michael Jordan missed a lot of game winners, but he kept raising his hand. You have to have short term memory.
“If it comes down to this in the first game [against England], I’m sure Noah will be sitting there in the pocket screaming for it. And we’ll give it to him at the right time, this time make sure you have a wall in front of him.
“We are learning but the most important thing is that Noah wanted him and he has to keep wanting him and that’s what I like playing with him – he always wants the ball, wants the big moments.”
Lolesio and White were talking to reporters at the Wallabies camp on the Sunshine Coast, where the youngster is getting more lessons from Cooper.
“Quade has been great with me since last year when he came into the team,” Lolesio said.
“He’s probably become a master flyhalf. And we have fed ourselves a lot since the start of camp last week.
“We talk about variations of our attack, especially being a fly-half too because of the focus on decision-making and just picking the right decisions in various situations. He told me how to handle things on and off the pitch.
“I think it’s a healthy relationship. I think you can only get the best out of each other if you compete. and off the pitch, we just have fun and laugh. When it’s time to flip the switch, we do, and we feed each other really well. I feel like it’s a great relationship.
“I grew up watching him play and now I’m in the same place as him.”
Lolesio accepts they are competitors for playing time, and with James O’Connor in the squad, Lolesio is unsure of making the 23rd for Perth on July 2.
He was first kicked out of the Spring Tour last year, only restored late in the play and played for seven minutes against England at Twickenham.
“The road was a bit bumpy at the end of last year, but now I feel like I’ve matured a lot as a player with the help of this man right next to me,” said he, pointing at White.
“It’s definitely been a season of ups and downs for me too obviously a lot has happened but I’m very grateful to be here right now and doing my best to be selected in the 23rd daytime.
“I never want to have this mentality of going into a team that I’m just an extra number to hold a pad. I am here to compete. We’re all here to do our best for the competition, which creates an impressive level of training, and we’ll put that on the pitch as well.
“Quade and Rabs are both awesome players. And we all have different strengths and weaknesses. I just put my head down, get the job done and do the best I can here.”
For now, he has time on his side.