Folau decision draws predictably mixed reaction

LAINE CLARK AND WAYNE HEMING
Last updated 21:46 04/12/2012
israel folau
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CODE HOPPER: After leaving the AFL to return to the NRL, Israel Folau is set to announce his signing with the Waratahs.

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Three months after first discussing it with Israel Folau, Wallabies great Tim Horan celebrated the sport hopper's move to rugby union - but league legends weren't as ecstatic.

Parramatta great Brett Kenny called for the NRL to exile 23-year-old Folau for knocking back a lucrative Eels deal and signing with Super Rugby franchise the NSW Waratahs for 2013.

"He should never be allowed to play rugby league again," Kenny - who played 265 games for Parramatta - told AAP.

"He said his heart wasn't in AFL and obviously it isn't in rugby league either."

In contrast, Horan described Folau's signing as a "huge coup" that he inadvertently kick-started in September with a heart-to-heart chat.

"A lot of rugby league people thought he was going to Parramatta but I had a chance to talk to Izzy three months ago ... about the potential of leaving AFL (then) I spoke to (then ARU boss) John O'Neill about it," Horan said.

"I knew then, three months ago, that Izzy was fairly serious about the potential change."
The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) would not comment on whether it had helped with a top-up payment for Folau.

But Horan believed the ARU must have weighed in after the ex-Melbourne and Brisbane NRL star became frustrated by protracted negotiations with the Eels.

Ex-Kangaroos captain Gorden Tallis questioned whether Folau was getting good advice.

His manager Isaac Moses is banned until March 28 for his involvement in the Storm salary-cap scandal and remains suspended from representing NRL players in contract negotiations.

"It's his manager's job to look after his client and to keep him happy," Tallis told AAP.

"He got him a big deal (with AFL) and he wasn't happy and he walked away.

"Money didn't make him happy, yet he is going to another code when he said his passion is in rugby league.

"I don't blame Izzy. I think he's getting some really poor advice."

Horan said he would be "surprised" if Folau contested next year's British and Irish Lions tour but could be in the mix for the subsequent Rugby Championship clashes with New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina.

World Cup-winning ex-Wallabies coach Bob Dwyer could see Folau succeed as a winger under Waratahs coach Michael Cheika and assistants Alan Gaffney and Daryl Gibson.

"With those three, he will have the right tuition," Dwyer told AAP.

"For a few years, you couldn't say you would get really excited about wanting to watch the Waratahs play but I am by the prospect under the new coaching staff and Folau."

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Folau is set to make his Super Rugby debut on February 23 against the Queensland Reds at old league stomping ground Suncorp Stadium.

Reds' CEO Jim Carmichael could only chuckle at the prospect of Folau running out in blue at State of Origin's spiritual home.

"All I could picture was the full page advertisement we'll be taking out ... 'Dear Izzy - welcome back to Suncorp Stadium & good luck from the Queensland Reds and their 52,000 members and fans'," he said.

Folau set Twitter alight, even earning congratulations from Reds' playmaker Quade Cooper.

"Big support brother! All the best with the new challenge...looking fwd to watching you do ya thing!" he tweeted.

All Blacks great Jonah Lomu added: "Happy days ... NSW UNION u lucky buggers my pick to watch next year man got mad skills mad love from your Nz/Tongan bro," he wrote.

- AAP

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