In what is shaping up to be a shameful marketing stunt gone wrong, Israel Folau shocked the football world on Thursday when he confirmed his decision to quit AFL club greater Western Sydney and return to the NRL.
Folau lasted just two years in the league under the tutelage of legendary coach Kevin Sheedy at start up club Greater Western Sydney and failed to make any sort of real impact during this 13 professional games.
Unlike the ever improving Karmichael Hunt, Folau proved his transition from rugby to Aussie rules was greater than originally anticipated and will instead sign with the Parramatta Eels of the NRL. Folau is expected to slot in as one of the league’s highest paid players, but will still have to accept a significant pay cut to meet salary cap restrictions.
Folau’s signing with GWS proved to be no more than a publicity stunt fuelled by a huge contract. In an attempt to draw rugby crazed fans from the typically unpopular football city of Sydney, Folau, already an NRL great at a very young age, struggled worse than his club did during GWS’s maiden AFL season. He managed just six disposals a game and kicked two goals in his 13 appearances. Some interesting numbers provided by The Australian: his “80 touches for the season came at $18,000 a disposal, his goals at $750,000.”
Sheedy was shocked at news of Folau’s departure and went as far as to say the two years were a “waste”.
"It is disappointing from the point of view of losing a player. It is a job not done," Sheedy said.
"It is a waste for everybody. It's a waste of time and effort by the coaching staff. He found it difficult to be passionate about the game and he probably has a lot of mates in the NRL who were saying to him, 'Get back here.' The bottom line is that Israel is still young enough to do anything."
It’s hard to see GWS staying bitter for two long; they get out of Folau’s ridiculous contract and now have a chance to lure ex-Adelaide star forward Kurt Tippett to fill the empty forward slot.
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Follow Robert White on Twitter @RobertWhitebrrr.