Rugby’s home for Fo­lau

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - IAIN PAYTEN

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.

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