Struggled ... Israel Folau of the Giants. Photo: Getty Images
ISRAEL FOLAU has responded to damning criticism of his performances in the AFL this year, hitting back at the suggestion he didn't try in a late-season game against Melbourne and declaring that he would see his contract out.
Condemnation of Folau's season reached a peak after he played for GWS against Melbourne on August 18, when he was savaged on the AFL's own website in a story by James Dampney and also panned by former star players.
Dampney wrote: "If Saturday afternoon is anything to go by, it is time for Israel Folau to have a serious think about his professional footballing future." He went on to say that "Folau looked totally disinterested in making any type of meaningful contribution to help his team. He didn't have a possession until the third quarter and barely moved above a jog throughout the entire game, and only then if the ball was somewhere near him. To be frank, Folau seemed to be sulking as he trudged from one end of the ground to the other, with zero impact on the contest."
Cameron Mooney said on SEN radio that "maybe Israel's not meant for our game", adding: "His game sense is just nowhere at the moment. He's got no idea where to go." And Kevin Bartlett chimed in: "Today he has shown nothing. Today they have played a man short. That's a harsh thing to say, but there's been no improvement in his game since that first practice game at the start of the year."
Folau said there was no worse criticism for a player than to suggest he wasn't trying.
"Yeah, that's right, that was a little bit hard to take in because each week I go out there to try and perform the best I can and it was a bit sad to hear those type of comments from people," he said. "But it's something I can't control and I know I've given 100 per cent and that's all that matters.
"I don't read the media and the papers and all that, so I knew of the news because my family and friends let me know what's going on. But, again, that's out of my control and people are entitled to say what they want to say, and to be honest I don't really care about it. I just go out each week focusing on the job that I have to do, and play."
Asked what he had made of his first season in AFL, Folau replied: "For me, personally, because I've got high standards myself, I thought that I didn't go as well as I would have liked. I know it's my first year in the AFL, but I compare myself to a high standard even though I've just been learning the game.
"But the coaching staff and all the boys, they say that I've had a good year, so I can look at patches during the year when I've played well in some games and not so good in the other games. I've just got to go into this break now and try to refresh my mind to come back ready to go."
Folau's contract, which has another two years to run, is reportedly worth $1.5 million a year. He said he would consider all options, including a return to rugby league, when it runs out, but that in the meantime he was concentrating on trying to make a success of his AFL career. That was despite constantly being asked when he was coming back to league.
"Everyone's always asking that question," he said. "I get that question asked probably every day, but at the moment I've got two more years to go with the Giants so really I'm focusing on that. I've got nothing else to worry about, really. My plan is to see my contract out, obviously it is, and I'm really enjoying the experience so far.
"I guess I'll make a decision on my future closer to when my contract runs out, but that's a long time to go, two years. I'll get to that when the time comes."