Bernard Foley’s outstanding World Cup performances against England and Wales may have been fine-tuned by Wallabies coach Michael Cheika but the man who set him on the road to stardom was his devoted father.
Michael Foley, a lawyer, made sure his son reproduced on the playing field what they did in the back yard, sometimes taking his fanatical devotion beyond the call of duty.
Not many dads would undergo open heart surgery and then sneak out of the hospital to watch their 14-year-old son play for Redfield College. But that is what Michael Foley did 12 years ago.
“My dad’s my number one fan, You canâ€™t keep him down,” said 26-year-old Foley.
“Heâ€™d had a leakage and needed open heart surgery at that time. Heâ€™s been at virtually every game Iâ€™ve ever played and he coached me for a number of years.
“He was in hospital at the time and he wasnâ€™t allowed to be released and they wouldnâ€™t let him out for the day. But he made mum sneak him out of the hospital and he came to watch me play.”
– Kidney rescued –
His mother had to drive his father back to the hospital after the match and it probably saved Bernard from losing a kidney.
“During the game, I got a kick in the side,” he said.
“I didnâ€™t think much of it, I was just a bit winded but then I started feeling pretty ill.
“Then when we were dropping dad back at the hospital afterwards, they said â€˜why donâ€™t you drop in as well and get checked outâ€™.
“They did all the scans and they said can you give us a urine sample and it came out bright red.
“They found I had a rupture in my kidney. It was pretty frightening at the time.
“I then had to spend 12 months out of non-contact sports and off the rugby pitch.
“But such is life I suppose,” added Foley, who has five siblings — two brothers and three sisters.
Foley, who scored 28 points against England to break Matt Burke’s 17-year-old record for the Australian to have scored the most points in a Test against the English, said he was the bane of his family’s life, save his father’s, when he was a youngster.
“My dad never played high-level rugby but loved it and played a bit,” said Foley, whose father’s other hobby is to research the family tree going back to their Irish roots.
“I grew up playing every sport at some stage; I’d have sport on seven nights a week to my mum and sisters’ disgust as they had to run me round.
“I used to play and love all sports – cricket, soccer, rugby, basketball, all that.”
Foley, who also spared some of his time to study an Economics degree at Sydney University, does not appreciate the nickname ‘Iceman’ he was given by former Wallaby international stalwart turned TV pundit Nathan Sharpe after he kicked a long range penalty in the final seconds to give his club The Waratahs their first ever Super Rugby title last year.
However, it is a characteristic that Cheika — whose arrival at the Waratahs in 2013 proved pivotal for Foley as he switched him from fullback to fly-half — believes is one of his greatest qualities.
“I know his strong points and where he must improve,” said Cheika.
“He has a great mentality, and is extremely cool under pressure.
“One thing he has to do as the playmaker is to direct play in the same manner all the time.
“He has it right in his head, he just has to perform like that out on the pitch.”