Parramatta Eels confirm Folau deal in pipeline
Parramatta are set to announce the signing of AFL defector Israel Folau in coming days, with coach Ricky Stuart revealing contract negotiations between the AFL convert, the Eels and the ARL Commission are well advanced.
Stuart revealed on Friday the Eels had been involved in hourly discussions with the game's governing body about the best way to bring Folau back to rugby league after he quit AFL on Thursday.
The former NSW and Australian coach stopped short of declaring Folau's move to the 2012 wooden spooners a done deal, but was very buoyant about their chances.
"We are in the fortunate position that Israel wants to play for Parramatta," Stuart said.
"He is a western Sydney product. He has grown up here and he has some good mates at the club.
"This is a great thing for rugby league and we are being up front about it all.
"It's not a done deal but (Eels chief executive) Ken Edwards has been in daily, hourly contact with the NRL.
"We are going about this the right way.
"This isn't just about Parramatta ... rugby league needs him."
Stuart said he had spoken with Folau since he announced his decision on Thursday to quit AFL.
"I spoke to him yesterday afternoon ... I had a good chat with him and everything tells me (he wants to return to rugby league).
"I'm only telling you what I know. It is so good for us. We have had a tough couple of years but now we are moving in the right direction."
Stuart said his new club would do whatever it took to get Folau's signature. However, he said the club would not ask for financial assistance from the ARLC.
"We see him as a key target in regard to getting Izzy to play for the Parramatta Eels," Stuart said on Friday.
"We will move heaven and earth to get him here.
"I see him being a great fit for Parramatta, a great fit for the culture of our club.
"I'm pretty confident he wants to come back to the game.
"He didn't make that announcement because he is going to soccer.
Stuart praised Folau's decision in leaving behind the code he had struggled to master in the past two seasons, and said he would return to the NRL a better player
"It was a tough and courageous decision," Stuart said.
"He could have easily taken the money ... it was a very courageous and honest move.
"It's such a great thing for rugby league that he has decided to come back.
"It's what our game needs. We keep hearing about Sonny Bill Williams coming back and, yesterday, you have that announcement from Israel Folau.
"When you look at Izzy's age, I think the endurance levels of what he had to achieve in AFL will only improve his game in regard to his fitness and energy levels.
"Putting size back on won't be an issue for him either at his age. The good thing is he is going to get a full pre-season to prepare. He hasn't reached the pinnacle in his career yet in rugby league."