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Izzy a big loss? Not really

Date

David Polkinghorne

Israel Folau is returning to rugby league.

Israel Folau is returning to rugby league. Photo: Getty Images

Israel Folau's decision to take half the money and run is the best thing to happen to AFL in Canberra since Alex Jesaulenko gave up rugby union. But at first glance, it might seem a bad thing.

No longer will Greater Western Sydney roll big Izzy out every time he comes to the ACT, trying to convince all the rugby league fans to code hop just like he did.

Instead the Giants will have to rely on no-names such as Tim Mohr and Nick Haynes to get the masses excited about their new (part-time) team.

Coach Kevin Sheedy will be left to do the spruiking himself, all the way from Penrith to Tuggeranong - even Sheeds' steel jaw will get tired from all that wagging.

But the end of Folau's money grab - halfway through a four-year, $6 million contract - will actually be a massive boost for both the Giants and football in Canberra.

It will mean better games and better players gracing Manuka Oval's hallowed turf.

Especially if GWS lands Adelaide forward Kurt Tippett, whose decision to leave Adelaide for his own cash-grab with the Sydney Swans has stalled due to a dodgy contract deal the AFL is investigating.

The only way he can now get to the Swans is through the AFL draft. He's tipped to put a $1 million a season price tag on his head to try to scare off other clubs.

But the Giants' early picks mean they can steal Tippett from under the nose of their cross-town rivals.

Folau's defection will open up some salary-cap room and make the reformed basketballer affordable.

Put Tippett in the Giants' forward line instead of Folau and they become much more competitive.

Not only will his contested marking be a massive boost for the young side, which struggled to turn possession into goals this year, but it will also take the pressure off young guns Jeremy Cameron and Jon Patton, as Tippett will attract the opposition's best defender each week.

He would also bolsters the Giants' ruck stocks and provide a valuable chop out for Jon Giles and veteran Dean Brogan.

A more-competitive GWS means better games at Manuka and that's going to get the punters through the gate.

You can have all the (not-so-cheap) marketing stunts and gimmicks you want, but the Giants playing in great games of footy is going to bring in the fans.

With the Giants' draw for next season, Tippett would make them a realistic chance of winning at least two of their four games in the ACT.

They'd be perfectly placed to maintain their unbeaten run against the Gold Coast Suns at Manuka and it would increase their chances of beating a rebuilding Western Bulldogs.

Perhaps St Kilda will prove too strong for GWS, but throw in a NAB Cup clash between Sheedy and the Bombers' golden-haired boy James Hird and it becomes a mouth-watering collection of four games at Manuka.

It also means more genuine stars showing their wares next year. While Folau's ability with the Steeden rugby league ball has never been questioned, he struggled badly when trying to find the AFL's Sherrin.

The same can't be said for Essendon's Brownlow medallist Jobe Watson, St Kilda's Nick Riewoldt and Norm Smith medallist Lenny Hayes or the Suns Gary Ablett jnr - some of the biggest names of the current era. Tippett would be the icing on the cake.

If that doesn't get Canberrans salivating over the summer nothing will and the ACT government would be well within its rights to take its $26 million ball - spent over 10 years to lure the Giants here in the first place - and go for an ACT Brumbies or Canberra Raiders game at Bruce.

Then we can all thank Folau's trip to the US with some Parramatta Eels players for making it all possible.

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