Folau: New most hated man in rugby league

DANIEL LANE
Last updated 05:00 02/12/2012
Israel Folau
STEVE CHRISTO/Fairfax Australia
NO RULES: Former rugby league superstar wing Israel Folau failed to master Australian Rules and is now heading for rugby.

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Israel Folau has fallen from Parramatta's most sought-after player to replacing Sonny Bill Williams as the most reviled man in the rugby league code.

After switching to AFL for a king's ransom and then abandoning it, he has now burned his bridges with Parramatta on Friday when his management announced he would leave Australia to play rugby union overseas.

The NRL's salary cap auditor Ian Schubert had just rubber-stamped the A$3 million four-year deal for Folau to join the Eels.

Fairfax Media received an insight into the contempt Parramatta now hold for Folau, and his manager Isaac Moses, when a high-level Eels source was asked whether Folau would be given a second chance to join the club if he had a sudden change of heart. "I can tell you this, if Israel Folau changed his mind tomorrow he would not get a crack here," said the source.

"That opportunity has passed for him. Gone. We thought he was a kid who, when he looked you in the eye, shook your hand and told you he was going to commit to something, he would do it. We were, sadly, mistaken."

The Eels fought hard to try to sign Folau because the Ricky Stuart-led coaching staff viewed his sudden availability on the market as a "unique" situation.

"Parramatta did not chase him, the Eels never chased him, he was chasing us," said the source. "And I can tell you this too, Parramatta was NEVER keen to move anybody to accommodate him . . . the club did everything it could by him and the league but, as everyone now knows it didn't eventuate.

"If you were to ask anyone how we're feeling, well, no one at Parramatta is moping about. If anything there is a feeling it is good to know he is someone who doesn't keep his word. There is a sense of relief the club has found out the character of the bloke before handing over millions of dollars. We got a cheap lesson, but a disappointing one all the same.

"It all dragged on [the NRL salary cap situation]. Ricky Stuart said weeks ago it was stupid to be banging his head on the brick wall [to try to work out a deal with the NRL] and they all laughed when he said [Folau] would be lost to rugby union . . . I hope they're not laughing still."

Parramatta went all-out to sign Folau after the 23-year-old terminated his multimillion-dollar deal with the Greater Western Sydney AFL franchise.

He was paid big dollars to switch codes because the sport's hierarchy in Melbourne targeted him, as a then high-profile Queensland Origin star, as the calibre of player needed to encourage kids in Sydney to embrace their game.

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After two years trying to master the intricacies of a game, he bailed out.

Now he will learn a new sport in either France or Japan.

- Sun-Herald

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