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What will Israel Folau do next?

23 year-old Israel Folau tells the media his plans to leave the AFL after two seasons with Greater Western Sydney.

PT2M14S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-28mmy 620 349

KEVIN Sheedy said that in informing Greater Western Sydney of his decision to quit AFL, Israel Folau ''blindsided'' the club. If so, it was by far the best manoeuvre he managed in his two perversely memorable years there.

It is hard to think of a redeeming feature for this experiment.

Its naked purpose was promotion. Luring him to the AFL was a coup at the time but it backfired doubly.

Folau's struggles to turn himself into an AFL footballer became embarrassing for him and Thursday's abandonment was an embarrassment for the AFL.

Spinning desperately, AFL chief Andrew Demetriou said Folau had inspired ''many children'' in New South Wales and Queensland to play and watch AFL. Following that logic, they will now all follow him back to rugby league. Worse (in the AFL's eyes), he will inspire many more children to play and watch league. He is much, much better at it.

Folau did make headlines but so now are Kurt Tippett and the Melbourne Football Club making headlines. Much as the AFL seeks to make all news good news, sometimes it would happily settle for no news. This week is one such time.

Reportedly, Folau was paid about $1 million a year and, plainly, it was not on account of his football ability.

The game could afford the cash but not the principle it embodied - that every game has its price.

Once, Folau admitted the money had been the appeal all along. On Thursday, he admitted he lacked the necessary passion and to persevere would have been to cheat himself.

Though disarmingly frank, the sum of these two admissions is to underscore the smear of grubbiness about the exercise.

Folau, unlike Gold Coast's Karmichael Hunt, always looked lost on an AFL ground. No amount of elite coaching helped. I don't doubt that he tried but all he managed in the end was to reinforce the certainty that, overwhelmingly, footballers are born, not made. All that expensive nurture notwithstanding, nature wins.

Folau knew it. Implicit in what he said was a tinge of embarrassment that he was blocking the place of a natural-born footballer, and the Giants have many.

Meantime, he has lost notionally two of his best athletic years in the code more suited to his skills and dearer to his heart. He said his sojourn with the Giants was not a mistake but he cannot know that for another couple of years.

All that said, Folau presents as a fundamentally decent bloke who became a pawn in a much bigger game, a game between games.

All should hope now that he quickly re-establishes himself in the top flight of rugby league, or else this failed dalliance with AFL will leave a sour taste in the mouths of two codes, ennobling neither. Folau was praised by the Giants and the AFL for his ''courageous decisions'' and ''enormous contribution''. The hyperbole was laughable. The reality is that concerning Israel Folau, the AFL had one goal in mind. He kicked two.