Israel Folau announces his retirement from the AFL at Thursday's press conference with GWS coach Kevin Sheedy.

Israel Folau announces his retirement from the AFL at Thursday's press conference with GWS coach Kevin Sheedy. Photo: Wolter Peeters

It's been variously described as an embarrassment for the AFL, an experiment that ended in abject failure and hands-down win for rugby league in the much-hyped battle for sporting hearts and mind in Sydney's west.

But Israel Folau's sudden departure from the game barely made a ripple among the AFL elite in the former league star's home town, with Brisbane great and Lions coach Michael Voss brushing suggestions the farce has caused lasting damage to the code.

Folau walked away from AFL after pocketing $2 million in his role as a fulltime promotions vehicle and very occasional contributor to Greater Western Sydney. He kicked just two goals and earned around $25,000 per possession in a season to forget.

Voss was asked whether the game had taken a serious hit after its second high-profile code hopper gave the game away and said he doubted there would be any real impact from Folau's awkward attempt to become a Polynesian powerhouse in the forward pocket.

"Not in this instance. If it was Chris Judd or Jonathan Brown it would. But they're not walking away from the game - Israel is," Voss said.

"He's come from another code and he's going back to that code, if that's what he chooses to do. But our code will certainly carry on. It's bigger than one person.

"In terms of a black eye, no. A blemish. A mozzie bite. That's it."

Lions midfielder Tom Rockliff wasn't surprised Folau had battled to make a fist of things in AFL. He said Karmichael Hunt, who blazed the trail for Folau's switch, had some sort of AFL background on which to build while Folau was starting afresh.

"It's always going to be difficult. You grow up playing a sport - it's always going to be difficult to change. It didn't work for him," Rockliff said.

Hunt, a success story for the Gold Coast Suns, told the AFL website said he respected Folau for making the call to depart a game for which he had little affinity and even less passion.

"Obviously he felt his heart wasn't in it and I guess it would have been unfair to a lot of people including himself, if he carried on," Hunt said.

"I respect his decision."

Folau is likely to return to the NRL and the Parramatta Eels are firm favourites for his signature. It's a shame AFL fans saw only a clueless rookie instead of a dominant athlete but Ricky Stuart is hoping to reboot a player whose powerful physique and aerial ability helped take league's attacking bombs to a new level.

For now, his contribution to AFL will simply read: 13 games, 80 disposals, 22 marks, two goals, 65 hit outs and 18 tackles.