Grant: We tried our best to land Israel Folau

Last updated 11:14 04/12/2012
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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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Former AFL and NRL star Israel Folau has confirmed today he has signed with the NSW Waratahs for the 2013 Super Rugby season.

Folau quit the AFL to return to the rugby league with the Parramatta Eels only to controversially pull out of contract negotiations in order to pursue a career in rugby union.

He has signed with the Sydney-based side on a one-year deal.

ARL Commission chairman John Grant earlier defended the NRL's role in the Folau saga.

It is understood Folau's deal with the Waratahs is for a third of the $1.5 million-a-season AFL contract that he walked away from with the intention of joining Parramatta. 

After protracted negotiations, which included a meeting between Grant, NRL interim chief executive Shane Mattiske and Folau's management more than two months ago, the embarrassment many feel the game has suffered will intensify when he fronts a media conference at the Waratahs offices adjoining Rugby League Central.

Angered by the tone of some of the criticism he has endured since advising Eels coach Ricky Stuart of his decision last Friday, Folau has indicated on Twitter that he plans to tell his side of the story at the media conference.

''Everyone is entitled to their opinions but I'll speak the truth when it's my time,'' he tweeted.

However, Grant said the NRL did the best it could to try to accommodate Folau after he decided at the end of last season that he wanted to return to the game next year.

With the Eels having little room to move with their salary cap, the NRL only agreed to register a contract for Folau if he accepted an offer tabled last Tuesday, which is believed to have been worth $250,000 next season.

''The end result with Israel is disappointing, particularly given the offer, which was terrific for someone who's been out of the game for two years and also given the effort of Parramatta and the NRL in getting a conforming offer together,'' Grant said.

''The fact is that we wanted Israel back in the game, and given Parramatta had nowhere to go with the cap initially, I think we did a good job. He just made a decision to take a better offer for him.''

However, it is understood the deal with the Waratahs is less than Parramatta had initially indicated they would pay him if he could gain a release from his AFL contract.

It is also understood St George Illawarra made a strong offer for the 23-year-old but he did not want to move from western Sydney.

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Folau's first preference was to play for Parramatta with his brother John and close friends Jarryd Hayne and Tim Mannah, and the Eels are believed to have been in talks with him before Grant and Mattiske met with his management in September.

Asked if the game could do anything to make it easier for other players who want to join the NRL from outside the competition, Grant said he wasn't sure if such cases could be dealt with differently or faster. ''The integrity of the cap has been one of this game's great strengths, and bending the rules for one isn't likely to be something we'll do,'' he said.

Meanwhile, Melbourne Rebels coach Damien Hill queried how the Waratahs could fit Folau in under the new $4.5 million salary cap. ''I can't see how any Super Rugby clubs, including the Rebels, could afford him with the late timing and the salary caps that have been enforced,'' he said.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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