Rugby League


Eels fume as Folau changes tack again

ONCE Parramatta's most sought-after player, Israel Folau has fallen so far from grace that he is now the club's most reviled individual.

Fairfax Media has been told the former league international - who switched to AFL for a fortune then abandoned the code - would be lucky to receive a free Eels sticker in future.

Folau burnt his bridges with Parramatta on Friday when, just as the NRL salary cap auditor Ian Schubert had rubber-stamped the $3 million, four-year-deal for Folau to join the club, his management announced he would leave Australia to play rugby overseas.

But it emerged on Saturday that the New South Wales Waratahs could be a shock home possibility for Folau.

Folau has always maintained he wanted to continue to live and play in Sydney where he is close to his church and his mates, giving Super Rugby battler NSW - which ended the 2012 season on an eight-game losing streak - the inside running.

''Are the Waratahs on the cards? Definitely,'' a source close to Folau's camp said.


His acquisition would give the ailing Waratahs, who have struggled for crowds and media space in an increasingly crowded market, a real boost.

The Eels fought hard to sign Folau despite salary cap constraints because the Ricky Stuart-led coaching staff viewed his sudden availability on the market as a ''unique'' situation.

''If Israel Folau changed his mind tomorrow he would not get a crack here [at the Eels],'' the source told Fairfax Media.

''That opportunity has passed for him. Gone. We thought he was a kid who, when he looked you in the eye, shook your hand and told you he was going to commit to something, he would do it. We were sadly mistaken.''

Now that the club's struggle to sign Folau has amounted to nothing, the source made it clear there was never any intention to trade or sack a player to accommodate him under the salary cap.

''Parramatta did not chase him, the Eels never chased him - he was chasing us,'' the source said.

''And I can tell you this too, Parramatta was never keen to move anybody to accommodate him … the club did everything it could by him and the league but, as everyone now knows, it didn't eventuate.''

Contacted on Saturday, Stuart said he would not offer any comment on the matter.

Parramatta went all-out to sign Folau after the 23-year-old terminated his multimillion-dollar deal with Greater Western Sydney.

He was paid big dollars to switch codes because the AFL hierarchy in Melbourne targeted the then high-profile former Melbourne Storm star as a player of the calibre needed to encourage kids in Sydney to embrace their game.With AAP