After just two years into a four-year contract worth $6 million, Israel Folau has thrown in the towel and will seek a move back to the NRL.
Despite showing signs of possibly being able to hold his own at the top level during Greater Western Sydney’s 2011 season in the NEAFL, Folau managed 13 games in the Giants’ inaugural AFL season, managing only two goals as a forward for his entire career.
Folau was one of the highest-paid players in the competition, easily claiming the most money at GWS.
NRL expert Matthew Johns wildly stated in July of this year that “Israel Folau will be out of his GWS contract by September.” Although he is a few months off the mark, Johns is spot on.
“They’re negotiation a release right now, and next year he will be playing the NRL in Sydney,” Johns continued.
One of the teams supposedly interested in attaining Folau’s services is the Penrith Panthers. Reports swirled days after Johns’ comments that Folau was spotted at Penrith taking a look around, despite denying any interest in re-changing codes on social media.
NRL club Parramatta has already stated its intention to sign Folau for the 2013 season.
This failed experiment needs to act as a lesson to both the AFL and clubs alike. The biggest fear when both Israel Folau and Karmichael Hunt made the transition from NRL to AFL was that they would both be paid an unbelievable amount of money, only to turn around and go back to the NRL. It digs up the old debate of whether these players are worth their pay.
To put it into context, Essendon’s acquisition of Brendon Goddard during the free agency period received plenty of scrutiny due to the contract Goddard was allegedly offered, worth $800,000 per season for four years. Israel Folau’s contract would see him receive $1.5 million per season for four years.
While Karmichael Hunt, who is contracted to Gold Coast until 2014 for a sum of more than $1 million a season, has proven to be completely dedicated to Aussie Rules, the high salaries should be reserved for the best players in the competition.
It took Hunt two seasons to allow his body to adapt to the rigorous endurance demands of AFL, and one could argue that his dedication to completing the transition is reason enough to deserve the money. At the very least, Karmichael Hunt has stuck with his decision, despite the scrutiny that was guaranteed.
For Folau, however, it seems that when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
In a sense, it’s quite disrespectful for Folau to make the change to AFL, accept an unimaginable salary and then walk out the door with his wallet bulging.
As far as financial investments and marketing goes, attaining the services of Israel Folau from the NRL is a flop in every sense of the word. Falou has been paid by both GWS and the AFL to become a sideshow for two years, an extremely ordinary sideshow at that.
Above all else, this is a strong reminder that overinvesting in an unproven entity can leave you looking quite foolish. At the time of Folau’s transition, those within the AFL were slapping each other’s backs, saying what a coup this was for the AFL over NRL. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
In its bid to get a leg up against the NRL, the AFL forgot that what’s most important in football is upkeeping the quality of the competition. For a four-year contract for $6 million, I hear Betty White is also available if the AFL wants to continue down the path of ‘must attain star power’.
Save the lucrative contracts for the players that have dedicated themselves to this sport, rather than those that believe they can walk in and claim the lime light.