Israel Folau To Play For The Parramatta Eels From 2013

Note: This deal fell through after the NRL salary cap auditor could not give the Eels a ruling on Folau’s true value under the cap. After waiting a while, Folau chose to sign with the Australian Rugby Union.

Israel Folau has quit the AFL and will return to Rugby League.

Brent Read of The Australian reports that Folau will play for the Parramatta Eels from 2013, a move that has been rumoured to be on the cards for about a year now.

Folau is expected to receive a payout from the AFL and when you add that to a back ended deal with the Eels, he won’t be too far out of pocket.

I wrote in August that Israel Folau Should Come Back To The Game He Loves. In it I wrote about the issues he would have returning to Rugby League conditioning. He will need to add a lot of muscle mass that he lost playing AFL and that could have a big effect on his agility and endurance.

Players that have left the NRL and then come back have rarely looked as shape as they did before their departure. In Folau’s favor is his age, he only 23 years old, and he should be able to get back to some decent conditioning soon enough.

How his defense will suffer is anyone guess, and that is the big challenge he will need to overcome. I would suggest the Eels have bought him as a center, although I wouldn’t be surprised if Ricky Stuart eased him in on the wing. I would also be interested to see how he handled the role of fullback. You might see him given a run there in the pre season, just to see if it is a role he could possibly fill. Keep in mind, Stuart has said in the past he thinks Jarryd Hayne is a five-eighth, not a fullback, so that may be a direction the Eels go in.

Folau isn’t the only player the Eels are chasing, with the club reportedly after Wigan forward Gareth Hock. Throw Folau, Hock, Stuart and his coaching staff, a new CEO and the payouts required for previous employees of the club, the Eels have been spending a crazy amount of money lately. How they can afford it is beyond me!

It will be good to see Folau back playing Rugby League. I can’t blame him for leaving, the money was way too good to refuse. He looked miserable though and was a wasted talent to the point where even AFL types felt holding him to his contract was just wasting his talent.

Was Folau worth it for the AFL? Early on he was for sure and I’d even suggest through his first full AFL season he was as well. Try naming another GWS Giants player….I bet you can’t! He was simply the highest profile AFL players in NSW or QLD and the AFL will miss that name recognition.

So on behalf of all Rugby League fans I’d like to welcome Israel Folau back to the game he loves. It will be great to see him running around next year in the Blue and Gold.

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