Rugby’s home for Folau
IN THE space of a few short years Israel Folau became a household name as a rugby league prodigy.
He then became a league player marketing AFL in Sydney and finally a league player giving union a try. “Now,” said Folau yesterday, “I feel like I am a rugby player.”
Three years after switching from AFL and almost five years since his last NRL game, Folau yesterday re- signed with the Australian and NSW Rugby Unions for another three years, and in doing so finally settled on the 15- man game as home.
Folau’s new flexible deal, which will see him play two off- seasons in Japan, runs to the end of 2018 and is estimated to earn the triple- code star $ 4 million in total.
The star fullback will be almost 30 when next on the market, with six years of rugby under his belt compared with four years in the NRL and two in AFL.
If Wayne Bennett’s line “they all come back” was ever going to include Folau, it’d have likely been by now – even with several league offers on the table, Folau elected to stay put in rugby.
“At some stage during the negotiations there were obviously a few options in terms of playing rugby league,” Folau said.
“But I guess it was too hard to look past where I am at the moment, and what situation I am in my career. It’s nothing on the game ( of rugby league), I still love it but I think this is the best decision for my career, both in the game and off the field as well.”
Folau’s retention was labelled a “tremendous coup for rugby” by ARU official Rob Clarke, and it is a fair call when the dark alternative of a Folaufree code is considered.
The 26- year- old is not only the best player in Australian rugby, Folau is also their most marketable athlete and is the fans’ favourite as well.
Folau said the global nature of rugby was, ultimately, the decisive factor. “Looking at the overall package of rugby, it being a global sport, for me that’s something that really kind of stands out,” he said.