Folau defection a 'slap in the face'
Triple premiership player Jason Akermanis says Israel Folau's defection back to rugby league is a ''slap in the face'' for AFL boss Andrew Demetriou and his marketing department.
Akermanis said it was sad Folau was unable to fulfil his four-year, $6 million contract with Greater Western Sydney but it was the ''best decision he's made for a long time''.
After a brief stint in the AFL, Folau will likely return to rugby league with reports he will play with the Parramatta Eels.
Lonely walk . . . Israel Folau arrives at Thursday's press conference. Photo: Getty Images
Akermanis said past and present AFL players would have a ''bad taste in the mouth'' after the failed Folau experiment but he was happy the former Giants forward was no longer playing for money.
''It's a good day for [Folau], it's a good day for rugby league and a not-so-good day for the people that made that decision [to recruit Folau], one Andrew Demetriou as well, who needs to take some [blame], that's a massive flop,'' he told The Canberra Times on Thursday.
''Whoever made that decision owes the stakeholders a big apology.''
Giants coach Kevin Sheedy spruiked Folau's last game, against North Melbourne, as his best, where he kicked one of only two AFL goals for the year and had one of his better possession counts.
But his last game in Canberra was anything but his best. Folau could muster only three possessions and three hit-outs in a display the AFL's website labelled ''disinterested'' and ''sulking''.
His other trips to Manuka Oval were uninspiring, averaging less than eight disposals a game and failing to kick a goal in his three home-and-away appearances in the nation's capital.
But while Folau was one of the Giants' most high-profile recruits, Sheedy told The Canberra Times his departure would not affect GWS' ability to attract a crowd in the capital.
''Izzy played quite well in Canberra,'' Sheedy said. ''I don't think it will affect the people who would be turning up to our games.
''People that follow our game, or the NRL or rugby, they know what they want to see.
''When we turn up to play Essendon the first round of the NAB Cup [next year], I'll just tell people to get there.''
The ACT government committed $26 million for the first decade of the Giants' AFL career to play three premiership matches at Manuka Oval.
Folau was a key marketing ploy to breaking into the rugby league-dominated market.
Sheedy felt Folau did not get a chance to reach his AFL potential.
''Some of the best young players in our club will come from southern NSW and Canberra so the most important thing for me is to develop Canberra and NSW players,'' Sheedy said.
Akermanis thought the money would have been better spent on developing a young star from western Sydney and Sheedy was a much better spruiker than Folau would ever be.
''Karmichael Hunt was never going back [to rugby league] and he's been fantastic,'' Akermanis said.
''His attitude is great towards the sport. Sure he's been paid well but he's really worked hard to change his image and Izzy's heart just wasn't in it.
''One of them worked, one of them didn't. One was a massive flop, another one's got the right attitude about it.''
While ''Aker'' labelled the experiment a flop, Eastlake coach Anthony Bourke thought Folau had done enough in the Giants' first season to warrant the millions of dollars spent.
''I don't think [it damages AFL in Canberra], I think everyone in the back of their mind thought he'd go back [to rugby league] eventually,'' Bourke said.
''Ideally, it would've been nice to see him see out his contract but I think he did his job.
''He got it on the map, everyone knew there was an AFL side coming.
''Marketing-wise, they reckon they got value for money out of him and he played some all right footy too.''