Well no doubt by now you have heard the news. Brisbane Broncos winger Israel Folau has decided to sign an incredible $6,000,000 contract to play AFL for the next four years.
Good on him, he must be kicking himself!
The AFL is desperate to break into Western Sydney and this is the avenue they have chosen to take. Folau, who has never played a game of AFL, even an a youngster, will be their pin up boy.
They are marketing him as a Western Sydney youngster (Despite the face be plays for Queensland in Rugby League) who is looking for a challenge and he will be the player all of their marketing revolves around.
Is He Worth It?
If the salary cap disappeared tomorrow, and clubs could sign anyone they wanted for as much money as they wanted. Would Israel Folau be worth $1.5 million dollars a year to ANY Rugby League club?
For what he does on the field, and he is a bloody handy player for any team to have, I personally don’t think he is worth anywhere near $1 million dollars. Off the field, he is below average. He isn’t the best speaker and he isn’t a fan favorite like say a Jarryd Hayne, Benji Marshall or players like that.
So is he worth that must to Rugby League? No. Is he worth it for the AFL, I don’t think so.
As a publicity stunt, its a bloody expensive one. Sure in the short term they will get a bit out of it, but have a look at Karmichael Hunts return from playing Rugby Union in France to see how quickly that dies off.
Hunt came back, started talking about AFL, and no one gave a damn.
Considering that Folau will leave Rugby League at the end of this season, play reserve grade AFL for the whole of 2011, and then he will play his first top grade game in 2012…it will be old news by then.
What This Says About Rugby League
Once again, other sports see what Rugby League has, and they want a piece of it!
Rugby League produces stars.
I’ve always wondered what it is about Rugby League. Its punches well above its weight as far as controversy goes, its ability to be a general talking point and making an athlete a star….its incredible for a sport that isn’t all that big on a world wide scale.
It is Rugby League’s X Factor, the ace up the games sleeve.
Here is the catch though….
You have a Rugby League player who is a star. As soon as he is not involved in Rugby League, his star power falls dramatically.
Do you care what Darren Lockyer does away from the Rugby League field? I don’t.
So these other sports buy Rugby League players trying to capture some of the magic our game produces, but it doesn’t really work out.
On the salary issue, as I said above, I think if the cap didn’t exist he still would have gone because clubs simply would not put that much money into a winger.
Inglis, Slater, Marshall, Lockyer, Thurston….yeah, they are probably worth that type of money. Not Folau. At some point a Rugby League club would just have to say no on the grounds of common sense.
The Push To Get Pacific Islanders Interested
AFL would have to be the second whitest sport in the world behind Cricket in Australia. They would kill to have the ethnic diversity that Rugby League in Australia has.
One area they want to make an impact in is with the Pacific Islands population.
Now, as Rugby League fans, we all know the impact Pacific Islanders have in Rugby League. They are amazing athletes. They have as big of an impact in Rugby Union and even in the NFL in America, they fill a hell of a lot of places over there as well.
The AFL in two years will have 18 teams in a country of just 22 million people. Keeping in mind that in the 1st and 3rd most populated states in Australia, they have very few people actually playing the game. So they need to find players from somewhere.
They have identified people with a Pacific Islands background as one potential player base they want to target. Thats why they have been so keep on Israel Folau.
Will it work? No, of course it won’t! I think its a bit insulting to Pacific Islanders to suggest they are that shallow. The Pacific Islands communities have their own likes, their own traditions. They play their favorite sports from a young age, they play them through the juniors and go one to dominate at a higher level.
When you think of the thousands of Rugby League, Rugby Union and NFL players running around from a Pacific Islands background, to suggest that one player in AFL will change any of that at all is laughable and I believe insulting to the Pacific Islands communities.
The Press Conference
In 2010 Israel Folau is being payed around $400,000 to play for the Wow FM Brisbane Broncos.
The Brisbane Broncos have a large group of sponsors who sign very big contracts to be associated with the club, and its players.
So to see Israel Folau at his AFL press conference in front of THAT teams sponsors, giving them air time, it was a disgrace. I also believe it should be a fine-able offense.
Players in the NRL have their personal sponsorship deals tightly regulated by the NRL itself. They are not, under any circumstances, to promote a sponsor that is a rival company to an NRL major sponsor or their clubs sponsors.
Yet here we have a player promoting a rival code and its sponsors!
If he wants to sign with AFL I don’t really care. When his Rugby League career is finished, have all the press conferences you want. But the NRL or the Broncos should fine Folau for promoting rival sponsors and short changing the Brisbane Broncos sponsors.
Missing The Mark
The AFL is an ignorant organization that really doesn’t know whats happening outside of Victoria.
They have no idea about the Sydney market at all. Hell even basic geography of the area confuses them. They keep talking about having a Blacktown team…yet it will be playing and training at Homebush Bay, which is closer to the Sydney Harbour bridge than it is Blacktown!
I think the AFL has seen Folau playing spectacular football for the Melbourne Storm on their own front step a few years ago. He left for Brisbane, but he was still on their minds.
His contract came up, they thought that Rugby League fans would follow him in AFL and they have decided to invest HUGE money in getting him across.
Do they think people in Sydney are idiots?
I don’t like AFL, its a shit sport. I’m like the rest of Sydney, I don’t watch it, I don’t care.
However even I know that this team would have been a million times better off luring a top of the line AFL players to this second Sydney team. Get a big AFL star who is good, who can play better than anyone else and do special things on the field.
When the Melbourne Storm kicked off in 1998, imagine if the first player they signed was an AFL player! It would have been complete madness!
Instead, they signed good Rugby League players. They looked to be competitive straight away. People in Melbourne were not stupid, they were not going to fall for a stunt.
The AFL has missed the mark here. Sydneysiders aren’t idiots, but the people willing to pay Israel Folau to play AFL certainly are!
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com