Michael Anthony Foley
- 720Wallaby Number
Michael Foley was a renowned scrum technician whose fortitude, self-belief and determination allowed him to achieve a long-held ambition of representing his country. A strong scrummaging hooker with a pinpoint lineout throw Foley became a master of his craft and a great survivor who overcame numerous selection setbacks during his career. Born and raised in Sydney, Foley attended St Patrick’s College, Strathfield from where he won selection for Australian Schools. With his pathway to New South Wales representation blocked by the emergence of a young Phil Kearns, Foley moved to Brisbane.
In 1991 he made his Reds debut against Saitama in Japan but found himself stuck behind No.1 rake David Nucifora. An opening presented itself in 1994 when Nucifora made himself unavailable for Queensland’s pre-season tour to Argentina. Foley established himself on the tour and continued on with the Reds to win the Super 10 title. In 1995 Foley was selected in the Wallaby squad for the Rugby World Cup and finally, at almost 28 years of age, made his Test debut against Canada in Port Elizabeth.
He went on to play a second Rugby World Cup in 1999 but this time arrived as the number three rake. That changed after Kearns injured his foot against Ireland and returned home. As a consequence Foley was thrust into the starting role for the pool match against the U.S.A. and three weeks later walked off Millennium Stadium as a World Champion. Foley went on to be part of Australia’s first two Tri Nations’ titles and the 2-1 home series triumph over the British & Irish Lions. Foley played 50 Tests for Australia in his seven-year international career. While Foley only began one season, 2000, as the first choice hooker, 42 of his 50 caps were won in the run-on XV, a testimony to his undoubted perseverance.
Selected in the Australian Schools squad against New Zealand Schools and the squad for the tour of Europe and the U.K.
Foley won his first Test cap off the bench when he replaced Phil Kearns in the 27-11 Rugby World Cup pool game win over Canada in Port Elizabeth. He made his run-on XV debut in the No.2 jersey and scored his first Test try in the 42-3 victory against Romania at Stellenbosch.
He earned one replacement cap in the opening three Tests of the year but then started in each of the remaining eight Tests across the Tri Nations tournament and the end-of-season northern hemisphere tour.
Foley picked up a single cap off the bench with Marco Caputo the preferred hooker for the first three Tests of the year. Foley reclaimed the No.2 jersey for the one-off Test against England and held it through the final nine matches of the year.
The return of Phil Kearns saw Foley overlooked for the domestic Tests and Tri Nations series before he picked up three replacement caps. The first came in the Rugby World Cup qualifier against Tonga in Canberra and the final two on the short tour against France and England.
Jeremy Paul started at hooker in the opening five Tests of the year. Foley picked up a single cap, off the bench, against New Zealand in Sydney before he was one of three No.2s selected in Australia’s Rugby World Cup squad. After Kearns was injured against Ireland, Foley came into the team and was the run-on hooker in the final four matches of the tournament.
Foley started all 10 Tests at No.2 in a year that Australia retained the Bledisloe Cup and picked up a first Tri Nations title.
Jeremy Paul was given first shot at the British & Irish Lions in Brisbane however he suffered a season-ending knee injury and was replaced by Foley who went on to start in each of the remaining 10 internationals. He played his 50th and final Test in the 21-13 victory over Wales in Cardiff.