Big boost from ARU lured Folau to Waratahs
When footballers say ''it is not about the money'', it invariably is.
What hasn't been disclosed in Israel Folau's one-year Waratahs deal is a secret top-up of $400,000 from the ARU.
Folau's manager, Isaac Moses, is happy for the public to believe Folau is being paid only $250,000 by the Waratahs, in an attempt to avoid any perception his client is a money hungry, code-hopping mercenary.
Despite Moses's denials that Folau is receiving a top-up, it is understood he will receive $400,000 from the ARU in addition to the Waratahs $250,000, meaning he will receive $650,000 for his year in rugby union.
The union's acting chief executive, Matt Carroll, refused to comment on Folau's top-up, saying: ''We never have and never will divulge what we pay.''
The Waratahs chief executive, Jason Allen, said: ''The ARU have definitely assisted us but don't declare the amount with us. It's their choice to talk about salaries.''
The $400,000 top-up is at the high end of the scale, consistent with the amount paid to rugby league defectors Wendell Sailor, Lote Tuqiri and Mat Rogers, who switched at the peak of their careers.
Folau has wasted two years in AFL land, losing confidence and tackling/passing skills, as well as about 10 kilograms of muscle mass, although Allen points out the ARU are also looking at him as a sevens player.
The ARU payment to Folau is guaranteed to cause rumblings among Australia's Super 15 teams, with players warned the code is tightening its belt and imposing a salary cap.
If the Wallabies are furious at Folau receiving $650,000, they will be feral at the knowledge Queensland Reds player Quade Cooper will earn a minimum $750,000 next year .
Thursday's press conference announcing an extension of Cooper's contract did not mention an ARU top-up of $350,000 to his $400,000 deal with the Reds. The top-up is exclusive of match payments.
That's the reward you get for referring to the Wallabies' culture under coach Robbie Deans as ''toxic''.
Cooper's manager, Khoder Nasser, and Moses - neither of whom are accredited with either the ARU or NRL - have been able to sell the idea their clients were coveted by NRL clubs.
St George Illawarra did not make an offer for Folau, yet the media reported he rejected the Dragons because he did not want to travel far from his west Sydney home.
Kellyville to Kogarah compared with Kellyville to Waratahs headquarters at Moore Park? Isn't there a back road to WIN Stadium in Wollongong?
Yet the public are expected to believe Folau wanted to stay close to his parents, despite being offered a mint by the Dragons when, in fact, no offer was made.
Sure, Folau's initial dealings with Parramatta were choked in NRL red tape, with Ian Schubert pricing him at $400,000 for salary cap purposes and refusing to back-load the deal.
Eventually, Schubert made a more realistic valuation of $250,000 and approved higher payments in the final years of the deal.
Folau blamed this vacillation for his rejection of the Eels deal but the reality is he will receive more in 2013 from the Waratahs than Parramatta, and he can join the Bulldogs in 2014 where the chief executive, Todd Greenberg, is best mates with Moses.
Yet the public has been told by Greater Western Sydney Giants' lunar coach, Kevin Sheedy, that Folau went to rugby because the NRL would have demanded he bag AFL.
The softly spoken, god-fearing Folau was unsuited to a crusade to convert people to AFL and incapable of broadcasting any mischief about it.
This is not to say he isn't calculating and considered when switching between locations and codes. His big career decisions go hand-in-hand with real estate manoeuvres.
The Storm were very upset when he left to play with the Broncos. Folau told Storm coach Craig Bellamy that his father, Eni Limoni Folau, dictated the move. Bellamy approached the father who said: ''It's Izzy's decision.''
A home in Brisbane was bought on behalf of the Folau family before Israel joined the Broncos; it was sold to Israel's parents for $350,000 two weeks after Israel played his last game for the Storm, the 2008 grand final. When Israel announced his AFL deal, ownership transferred again to Folau Investments whose directors are Israel and his father.
On October 31, 2010, Folau Investments bought a Kellyville property for $773,000 and the star's family live there. On November 18, 2010, Izzy began training with the Giants.
If Folau is very measured in what he does, maybe the ARU directors are as well. It's been pointed out that the Mark Arbib report on governance is yet to be approved by the ARU board. It requires the support of the biggest vote holders, NSW and Queensland.
Their respective Super 15 teams have just landed two marquee players, Folau and Cooper, raising the question: at what price comes governance? Carroll scoffs at this linkage, saying: ''It is just a convergence of circumstances. The Quade Cooper contract took longer to be finalised than it should have. NSW and the Waratahs are separate entities. The Waratahs don't get a vote.
''It's just timing.''
Isn't it ever.
Sydney Morning Herald