JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.



Folau takes baby steps towards a brave new world

Date

Caroline Wilson

Israel Folau's conversion has been Kevin Sheedy's biggest challenge.

Big ask: Israel Folau faces a tough challenge in his first AFL season.

Big ask: Israel Folau faces a tough challenge in his first AFL season. Photo: Wolter Peeters

THE Israel Folau cheer squad has allowed realism to overtake the jingoism that accompanied the early stages of his Australian Rules career, but the football bosses and coaches at Greater Western Sydney continue to shake their heads at his bravery.

No coach from Kevin Sheedy down at the Giants will predict that the young footballer will succeed - and Sheedy says converting Folau into an AFL player has been the biggest challenge of his coaching career. But all who watched the 22-year-old endure his 2011 baby steps insist he ploughed on through not only self-doubt but some dreadful abuse from the sidelines.

''I'd like to see someone whack him,'' said Sheedy of the prospect of Folau's first few home-and-away games, which should be marked by his debut against the Swans on March 24. ''I'd like to see his reaction because he's a big bloke and he's not always smiling.''

Israel Folau at training.

Israel Folau at training. Photo: Wolter Peeters

But Folau did flash a smile when questioned about the sledging he put up with from resentful rugby league fans and AFL cynics last season. ''You can hear it a lot better when there aren't many people at games,'' he said.

''I'm looking forward to the on-field stuff. I know it's going to come from the opposition and I quite enjoy it when an opponent gets in my ear. It sort of fires me up and sometimes I need that to get going.

''When I first came over from rugby league I knew I was going to cop it and there was a time there when I had a bit of doubt. I just thought: 'I don't know whether I can do this or not'.

''It was all building up inside me and I only spoke to my parents and they kept saying: 'Hang in there, it's going to take time.' But now I understand the game a bit better and I set myself little goals so I hope I cop a bit. I'm looking forward to it.''

Folau, who has shed eight kilograms over the past year and told The Age he did not want to lose any more, described his first AFL pre-season as tough. ''There has been a lot of running which I'm not used to,'' he said, ''and a lot of meetings as we get closer. A lot more meetings than in league. I've told the boys I'm not too good at meetings. I'm better out there having a kick.''

Folau's estimated $4 million, four-year deal with the AFL and GWS no longer sticks out as much following the high-profile signing of Tom Scully, but he remains one-out from the team geographically having bought a house for himself and his parents in Kellyville in Sydney's west while his fellow Giants all live in the relatively lavish gated community of Breakfast Point.

He has made a great new friend, however, in former Blue Setanta O'hAilpin and is no longer carrying alone the load as the face of the AFL's 18th club.

He agreed the upsides had been many compared with this time last year when an ankle injury had more than halved his pre-season. ''The club spoke to me about what was going to happen when I came to the club,'' said Folau. ''About the focus on me in the early part but sharing the load around has been good now that Tom Scully and all these other big names have come up.''

Back when Folau played with Melbourne Storm and shared training facilities with Carlton, O'hAilpin frequently caught his eye on the track. ''I had no idea then that he was Irish,'' said Folau, ''or that he had a Fijian background. ''But I used to like watching the way he went about his training and he's become a good friend.''

Standing deep in the GWS forward line with the strong-bodied O'hAilpin, the experienced Chad Cornes and teenage sensation Jeremy Cameron will remove further pressure from Folau, who was switched in May last season from the backline into attack by assistant coach Mark Williams. Many claim ownership of the decision, but insiders agree that list manager Stephen Silvagni first suggested it.

Folau has never returned for any significant period to defence and finished the 2011 North Eastern League competition with 31 goals. But it was not so much the scoring tally, he insisted, but a particular game in June in which he happened to kick five goals where his self-belief returned.

''That's the game when I thought: 'I think can do this','' recalled Folau. ''I started to understand my role. It wasn't only kicking goals but I set myself little things like putting pressure on and causing a turnover and I was really pleased with that.''

Sheedy said converting Folau from rugby league to AFL football had been a tough assignment. ''It's a mountain of a challenge,'' he said. ''He [Folau] is not a bad kick and I've watched his decision-making behind goals and that's where he just has to keep playing - to know when to move across and when to go in and to go out.''

Folau admitted he struggled at times with the four-time premiership coach in terms of his teaching style. ''With Choco [Mark Williams] he's probably more hands on and with Sheeds he uses his past to make comparisons and talk about players he's worked with to try and get his point across.

''A lot of guys he talks about I've never heard of. With me he mentions Michael Long or James Hird a bit and I've heard of them but I don't really know how they played.'' Sheedy responded later: ''It's up to him to find a tape and watch them to find out.'' (Last year when one of the AFL's most famous coaches, David Parkin, reported that Folau was unhappy and on the verge of giving the game away, Folau was heard asking GWS colleagues who Parkin was.)

Karmichael Hunt warned Folau early in his transition that the pace of the game and the highly skilled nature of the code would challenge him. Watching Folau train as he nears his AFL debut all football observers agree that the 22-year-old's endurance and his struggle to read the play will test him the most.

''That's exactly the hardest thing,'' agreed Folau, ''running to the right spot and knowing when to run.''

There is genuine doubt over whether GWS will win a game in its debut season or whether Folau will fire a shot. The Giants football bosses believe it will be two years before Folau's football destiny is clear.

But according to Sheedy: ''I've got to play him. He's got to learn so we've just got to keep playing him. He's going to make it or he isn't but I you have to ask the question: 'How brave is that kid?' ''

15 comments

  • I'm an AFL fan through and through, however I do enjoy NRL and have always liked watching Israel Falou. I hope he does succeed at AFL and would like to see him exceed everyones expectations. It's too easy to just sit back and make judgements, which is what happens far to often in this country. Lets not forget, this guy is a professional athlete and has represented Australia on several occasions, and the guy is only 22... Good luck Izzy, and if you get a chance if you could clean up Nick Maxwell and shut that bloke up that would be great !

    Commenter
    Eric Major
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    February 07, 2012, 8:41AM
    • could not have said it better myself. great post

      Commenter
      matty
      Location
      melb
      Date and time
      February 07, 2012, 11:01AM
  • Sounds like Sheedy is completely out of touch. The kid says:

    "I've told the boys I'm not too good at meetings. I'm better out there having a kick."

    Yet Sheedy wants him to learn the game by watching tapes of old players he has never heard of. What a goose.

    Lucky he has Choco there actually teaching him how to play.

    Commenter
    Wal
    Location
    Bush
    Date and time
    February 07, 2012, 9:00AM
    • Izzy could do with a bit of John Kennedy's coaching philosophy

      "DON'T THINK, DO!"

      Commenter
      Old timer
      Location
      Trapped in office
      Date and time
      February 07, 2012, 10:23AM
  • This article is yet more proof that Choco Williams is the actual coach of GWS and that Sheeds is just an increasingly irrelevant mouthpiece. Why don't the AFL stop treating people like fools and just own up to this? They really think the people of Sydney's west are so stupid as to just blindly accept whatever they serve up and will all 'see the light' and convert to AFL. This is going to be a massive failure and a huge mistake that will do major damage to the already struggling AFL brand in this city...

    Commenter
    Jono
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    February 07, 2012, 9:01AM
    • Converting League players to AFL is like trying to get weight lifters to convert to running the 10,000 meters track and field. AFL is primarily an endurance sport now, NRL is a power game. Their body types simply arn't suited to it.

      Commenter
      H
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      February 07, 2012, 9:18AM
      • Yeah I agree that its a strange thing to do. Its all about the marketing and not about what it all means for Israel. He is a quality sportsman no doubt. But the shift is going to be to big. These games, whether soccer, AFL, rugby or league are learned over years from childhood onward. Not in a season or two. The conversion between rugby and league rarely works despite the small gap, and nor will this. But its not about how good Israel is going to be then is it. Its about taking a big name from your biggest rival code in Sydney and rubbing it in their noses. I can see why League supporters are giving him a hard time.

        Commenter
        not convinced
        Date and time
        February 07, 2012, 10:10AM
      • thats why he has taken a year to change his body type ie the stated weight lss, the more running. you read the article, right?

        Commenter
        matty
        Location
        melb
        Date and time
        February 07, 2012, 11:02AM
    • Your so right Wal. "
      Lucky he has Choco there actually teaching him how to play."
      Even luckier that Choco learnt how to coach from the best in the business, who was that again,......Kevin........Kevin.......Oh yeah, Kevin Sheedy.
      Yeah if it wasnt for Choco, Issy wouldnt know anything.
      How many premierships has Choco got......one......wow!
      Methinks you might be from SA Wal? A touch biased?

      Commenter
      Phealan
      Location
      Reality
      Date and time
      February 07, 2012, 10:23AM
      • Not biased at all Phealan. Answer this question:

        When you took up a sport for the first time did you learn it by actually having a go or by watching a video?

        The simple fact is that Sheedy is the spruiker and Choco is the coach. Nothing wrong with that except that Sheedy shows himself to be a goose by suggesting that Falou will learn the game by watching videos.

        Commenter
        Wal
        Location
        Bush
        Date and time
        February 07, 2012, 11:04AM

    More comments

    Comments are now closed

    Related Coverage

    HuffPost Australia

    AFL 2016

    Round 1
    Thu, 24 MarTimes shown AEDT
    RIC vs CAR 19:20MCG
    Sat, 26 MarTimes shown AEDT
    MEL vs GWS 13:40MCG
    GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
    NTH vs ADE 19:25ES
    SYD vs COL 19:25ANZ
    Sun, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
    WBU vs FRE 13:10ES
    PTA vs STK 15:20Adelaide Oval
    WCE vs BRI 19:40Domain Stadium
    Mon, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
    GEE vs HAW 15:20MCG
    View All Fixtures
    Round 2
    Fri, 01 AprTimes shown AEDT
    COL vs RIC 19:50MCG
    Sat, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
    ADE vs PTA 13:45Adelaide Oval
    ESS vs MEL 14:10MCG
    BRI vs NTH 16:35G
    STK vs WBU 19:25ES
    FRE vs GCF 19:40Domain Stadium
    Sun, 03 AprTimes shown AEST
    GWS vs GEE 13:10SO
    HAW vs WCE 15:20MCG
    CAR vs SYD 16:40ES
    View All Fixtures
    Round 3
    Fri, 08 AprTimes shown AEST
    PTA vs ESS 19:50Adelaide Oval
    Sat, 09 AprTimes shown AEST
    STK vs COL 13:45MCG
    RIC vs ADE 14:10ES
    SYD vs GWS 16:35SCG
    GCF vs CAR 19:25MS
    WCE vs FRE 19:40Domain Stadium
    Sun, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
    NTH vs MEL 13:10BA
    WBU vs HAW 15:20ES
    GEE vs BRI 16:40SS
    View All Fixtures
    Round 4
    Fri, 15 AprTimes shown AEST
    WCE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
    Sat, 16 AprTimes shown AEST
    ESS vs GEE 13:45MCG
    HAW vs STK 14:10AS
    BRI vs GCF 16:35G
    CAR vs WBU 19:25ES
    ADE vs SYD 19:40Adelaide Oval
    Sun, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
    GWS vs PTA 13:10SO
    COL vs MEL 15:20MCG
    NTH vs FRE 16:40ES
    View All Fixtures
    Round 5
    Fri, 22 AprTimes shown AEST
    HAW vs ADE 19:50MCG
    Sat, 23 AprTimes shown AEST
    SYD vs WCE 13:40SCG
    GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
    WBU vs BRI 19:25ES
    PTA vs GEE 19:40Adelaide Oval
    Sun, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
    STK vs GWS 13:10ES
    FRE vs CAR 16:10Domain Stadium
    MEL vs RIC 19:10MCG
    Mon, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
    COL vs ESS 15:20MCG
    View All Fixtures
    Round 6
    Fri, 29 AprTimes shown AEST
    NTH vs WBU 19:50ES
    Sat, 30 AprTimes shown AEST
    MEL vs STK 13:45ES
    ADE vs FRE 14:10Adelaide Oval
    GWS vs HAW 16:35Spotless Stadium
    RIC vs PTA 19:25MCG
    GEE vs GCF 19:25SS
    Sun, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
    BRI vs SYD 13:10G
    CAR vs ESS 15:20MCG
    WCE vs COL 16:40Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    Round 7
    Fri, 06 MayTimes shown AEST
    RIC vs HAW 19:50MCG
    Sat, 07 MayTimes shown AEST
    COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
    GEE vs WCE 14:10SS
    SYD vs ESS 16:35ANZ
    GCF vs MEL 17:10MS
    WBU vs ADE 19:40ES
    FRE vs GWS 20:10Domain Stadium
    Sun, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
    STK vs NTH 15:20ES
    PTA vs BRI 16:40Adelaide Oval
    View All Fixtures
    Round 8
    Fri, 13 MayTimes shown AEST
    ADE vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
    Sat, 14 MayTimes shown AEST
    ESS vs NTH 13:45ES
    HAW vs FRE 14:10AS
    GWS vs GCF 16:35Spotless Stadium
    BRI vs COL 19:25G
    RIC vs SYD 19:25MCG
    Sun, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
    CAR vs PTA 13:10ES
    MEL vs WBU 15:20MCG
    WCE vs STK 16:40Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    Round 9
    Fri, 20 MayTimes shown AEST
    HAW vs SYD 19:50MCG
    Sat, 21 MayTimes shown AEST
    COL vs GEE 13:45MCG
    GCF vs ADE 14:10MS
    PTA vs WCE 16:35Adelaide Oval
    NTH vs CAR 19:25ES
    FRE vs RIC 19:40Domain Stadium
    Sun, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
    MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
    GWS vs WBU 15:20Spotless Stadium
    STK vs ESS 16:40ES
    View All Fixtures
    Round 10
    Fri, 27 MayTimes shown AEST
    SYD vs NTH 19:50SCG
    Sat, 28 MayTimes shown AEST
    BRI vs HAW 13:45G
    MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
    STK vs FRE 16:35ES
    ESS vs RIC 19:25MCG
    ADE vs GWS 19:40Adelaide Oval
    Sun, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
    CAR vs GEE 13:10ES
    COL vs WBU 15:20MCG
    WCE vs GCF 16:40Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    Round 11
    Fri, 03 JunTimes shown AEST
    NTH vs RIC 19:50BA
    Sat, 04 JunTimes shown AEST
    HAW vs MEL 13:45MCG
    CAR vs BRI 14:10ES
    GEE vs GWS 16:35SS
    GCF vs SYD 19:25MS
    FRE vs ESS 19:40Domain Stadium
    Sun, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
    COL vs PTA 13:10MCG
    WBU vs WCE 15:20ES
    ADE vs STK 16:40Adelaide Oval
    View All Fixtures
    Round 12
    Fri, 10 JunTimes shown AEST
    ESS vs HAW 19:50ES
    Sat, 11 JunTimes shown AEST
    PTA vs WBU 13:40Adelaide Oval
    BRI vs FRE 16:35G
    GEE vs NTH 19:25ES
    WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
    Sun, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
    STK vs CAR 13:10ES
    RIC vs GCF 15:20MCG
    GWS vs SYD 16:40Spotless Stadium
    Mon, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
    MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
    View All Fixtures
    Round 13
    Fri, 17 JunTimes shown AEST
    NTH vs HAW 19:50ES
    Sat, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
    BRI vs WCE 13:40G
    FRE vs PTA 16:35Domain Stadium
    WBU vs GEE 19:25ES
    Sun, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
    SYD vs MEL 13:10SCG
    ESS vs GWS 16:40ES
    View All Fixtures
    Round 14
    Thu, 23 JunTimes shown AEST
    ADE vs NTH 19:50Adelaide Oval
    Fri, 24 JunTimes shown AEST
    COL vs FRE 19:50MCG
    Sat, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
    RIC vs BRI 13:40MCG
    GWS vs CAR 16:35Spotless Stadium
    STK vs GEE 19:25ES
    Sun, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
    HAW vs GCF 15:20AS
    View All Fixtures
    Round 15
    Thu, 30 JunTimes shown AEST
    WCE vs ESS 20:10Domain Stadium
    Fri, 01 JulTimes shown AEST
    PTA vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
    Sat, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
    GCF vs STK 13:40MS
    SYD vs WBU 16:35SCG
    CAR vs COL 19:25MCG
    Sun, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
    MEL vs ADE 15:20MCG
    View All Fixtures
    Round 16
    Thu, 07 JulTimes shown AEST
    PTA vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
    Fri, 08 JulTimes shown AEST
    GEE vs SYD 19:50SS
    Sat, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
    GWS vs COL 13:40Spotless Stadium
    GCF vs BRI 16:35MS
    WBU vs RIC 19:25ES
    MEL vs FRE 19:40TIO
    Sun, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
    CAR vs ADE 13:10MCG
    WCE vs NTH 15:20Domain Stadium
    ESS vs STK 16:40ES
    View All Fixtures
    Round 17
    Thu, 14 JulTimes shown AEST
    SYD vs HAW 19:20SCG
    Fri, 15 JulTimes shown AEST
    FRE vs GEE 20:10Domain Stadium
    Sat, 16 JulTimes shown AEST
    RIC vs ESS 13:40MCG
    NTH vs PTA 16:35ES
    WBU vs GCF 19:25CAZ
    ADE vs COL 19:40Adelaide Oval
    Sun, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
    CAR vs WCE 13:10MCG
    STK vs MEL 15:20ES
    BRI vs GWS 16:40G
    View All Fixtures
    Round 18
    Fri, 22 JulTimes shown AEST
    COL vs NTH 19:50ES
    Sat, 23 JulTimes shown AEST
    SYD vs CAR 13:45ANZ
    GCF vs FRE 14:10MS
    WCE vs MEL 16:35Domain Stadium
    WBU vs STK 19:25ES
    GEE vs ADE 19:25SS
    Sun, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
    ESS vs BRI 13:10ES
    HAW vs RIC 15:20MCG
    PTA vs GWS 16:40Adelaide Oval
    View All Fixtures
    Round 19
    Fri, 29 JulTimes shown AEST
    GEE vs WBU 19:50SS
    Sat, 30 JulTimes shown AEST
    GWS vs RIC 13:45SO
    HAW vs CAR 14:10AS
    COL vs WCE 16:35MCG
    BRI vs PTA 19:25G
    NTH vs STK 19:25ES
    Sun, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
    MEL vs GCF 13:10MCG
    FRE vs SYD 15:20Domain Stadium
    ADE vs ESS 16:40Adelaide Oval
    View All Fixtures
    Round 20
    Fri, 05 AugTimes shown AEST
    RIC vs COL 19:50MCG
    Sat, 06 AugTimes shown AEST
    SYD vs PTA 13:45SCG
    MEL vs HAW 14:10MCG
    GCF vs GWS 16:35MS
    WBU vs NTH 19:25ES
    ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
    Sun, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
    CAR vs STK 13:10MCG
    GEE vs ESS 15:20ES
    FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    Round 21
    Fri, 12 AugTimes shown AEST
    WBU vs COL 19:50ES
    Sat, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
    BRI vs CAR 13:45G
    HAW vs NTH 14:10MCG
    GWS vs WCE 16:35Spotless Stadium
    STK vs SYD 19:25ES
    PTA vs MEL 19:40Adelaide Oval
    Sun, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
    ESS vs GCF 13:10ES
    RIC vs GEE 15:20MCG
    FRE vs ADE 16:40Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    Round 22
    Fri, 19 AugTimes shown AEST
    WCE vs HAW 20:10Domain Stadium
    Sat, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
    NTH vs SYD 13:45BA
    RIC vs STK 14:10MCG
    GWS vs FRE 16:35Spotless Stadium
    COL vs GCF 19:25ES
    PTA vs ADE 19:40Adelaide Oval
    Sun, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
    CAR vs MEL 13:10MCG
    BRI vs GEE 15:20G
    ESS vs WBU 16:40ES
    View All Fixtures
    Round 23
    Sat, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
    HAW vs COL 12:00MCG
    STK vs BRI 12:00ES
    ESS vs CAR 12:00MCG
    GCF vs PTA 12:00MS
    SYD vs RIC 12:00SCG
    NTH vs GWS 12:00ES
    GEE vs MEL 12:00SS
    ADE vs WCE 12:30Adelaide Oval
    FRE vs WBU 14:00Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    AFL 2015
    Overall standings
    Team P W L D % Pts
    Adelaide Crows 0 0 0 0 - 0
    Brisbane Lions 0 0 0 0 - 0
    Carlton 0 0 0 0 - 0
    Collingwood 0 0 0 0 - 0
    Essendon 0 0 0 0 - 0
    Fremantle 0 0 0 0 - 0
    Geelong Cats 0 0 0 0 - 0
    Gold Coast Suns 0 0 0 0 - 0
    View all
     

    Follow Us on Facebook

    Featured advertisers