American holiday got it moving
A US holiday with good friends Jarryd Hayne, Tim Mannah and Joseph Paulo sowed the seeds for Israel Folau's return to the NRL next season with Parramatta.
Folau, who told Greater Western Sydney officials on Wednesday that he no longer had the desire to play AFL, spent two weeks in Los Angeles, Miami, Texas and New York with the Eels stars.
Luring the former Storm and Broncos star back to the NRL had been discussed at Parramatta for 18 months and attempts to recruit him stepped up after Ricky Stuart's appointment as coach in August.
Stuart's association with Folau goes back to the time the then Kangaroos coach chose him in 2007 to make his Test debut at 18 years and 184 days old - the youngest player to have represented Australia.
Eels recruitment manager Peter Nolan was also the man responsible for enticing him from Melbourne to Brisbane in 2009.
But it is his relationship with Hayne, with whom he long played league at Minto, and the other Parramatta players that has almost guaranteed he will be in a blue and gold jersey next season.
''The deal is definitely not done but we are doing everything we possibly can to have Israel playing for the Eels and we are doing it in consultation with the NRL,'' Stuart said.
Folau's brother, John, is already at Parramatta, while another sibling, Eni, also spent time in the Eels system. The 23-year-old has been a guest of Parramatta officials at NRL games during his two-year stint with the Giants but he insisted that it was only in the last month that he began seriously contemplating a return to rugby league.
With GWS due back at training on Friday, Folau had to make a decision now. ''It was a pretty hard decision to make and one I had been thinking about for a while,'' he said.
''In the end the passion wasn't quite there and I think if I was staying I was kind of cheating myself. I had to be honest and move forward.''
Folau, who had another two years of his lucrative AFL contract left to run, said he had not spoken to any NRL club about his future but he has been in the sight of the Eels since officials debated whether to focus their energy on signing Folau or Sonny Bill Williams.
While former coach Steve Kearney met Williams, it quickly became apparent the dual international had a handshake deal with Sydney Roosters supremo Nick Politis, a good friend of Parramatta chairman Roy Spagnolo. Spagnolo turned to Folau, with one source claiming: ''We started working on this 18 months ago. Folau was never going to last more than a year in the AFL.''