IT'S hard to dislike Israel Folau but recent events indicate his nickname should be Dizzy, not Izzy. Clearly, he can't make a decision on his own when it comes to his sporting future. But to hold him purely responsible for what is nothing short of a farce that only the NRL can produce would be wrong. Salary cap auditor Ian Schubert and the officials who run the game can wear a large slab of the blame for all this negative publicity surrounding Folau. If the situation was reversed, the AFL would have treated a prize recruit from rugby league royally and a deal would have been done within 48 hours to ensure maximum exposure from a feel-good story. Instead, Schubert and others have effectively driven Folau into a spin and the next person who could be run out of the game before he gets a chance to return is the biggest footballing star in either rugby code, Sonny Bill Williams. If the NRL can't get its act together and realise the value Williams brings to the code - and if registration curve-balls are thrown at him - expect a similar result to the Folau debacle at the Eels. On the day Folau rung Andrew Demetriou to quit the AFL, he also called Ricky Stuart to tell the Eels coach he wanted to play with his mates and with his brother, John Folau, a Parramatta lower-grader. Folau also told Stuart he wanted to dump his manager, Isaac Moses, because he wasn't happy with the job he was doing. According to Parramatta sources, Stuart advised Folau to concentrate on getting his football career right first and to worry about a split with his manager later. Stuart is said to have told Folau not to dump Moses because it would bring extra legal headaches into his life. Parramatta insiders have confirmed Moses called Stuart in tears when he found out. Moses has since used the line ''I have to feed my kids'' as a justification for the way he has managed Folau and others recently. Moses also boasted that the media wouldn't be too harsh on Folau or his decision to dump the Eels. Clearly he misread that one. Folau failed to dump Moses and has now put the entire Parramatta club offside after they managed to come up with a very healthy $3m offer over four seasons. Stuart was asked to comment about his dealings with Moses and Folau, and simply said: ''I'm at a father-and-son camp, my focus is on that and not Israel Folau.'' There is no doubt the rudderless NRL played a part in Folau's decision, and take it as fact that there is talk of players boycotting the All Stars game, but it is very much a last resort. At this point the players are not fully united behind the idea but there is momentum and a plan in place to not play the game again. As one leading player told me: ''We've been backed into a corner and will do what it takes.'' The players realise the All Stars game generates plenty of money for charity and is a feel-good fixture. There would be a strong backlash against them. At this point if they were to boycott the game, they would still take part in any pre-game community events. Perhaps the players should consider targeting the first round of the competition instead of a match that raises money for charity.
Smith out of his league
THE appointment of Welsh-born banker Dave Smith has caused serious division in the group in charge of the destiny of Australian rugby league - the eight commissioners in charge of the ARL. And at least one of the directors is looking for the easiest possible way to make an exit. Smith's appointment has mystified some of the real powerbrokers in the game, and club chairmen and chief executives have been shaking their collective heads since Smith admitted his league knowledge was minute. What is coming out of the commission is that Smith is seen very much as a John Grant appointment. Corporate heavyweight John Singleton isn't afraid to say what others are thinking. ''You can't help but be suspicious about the appointment of a person who doesn't know anything about the sport that he is going to be in charge of,'' the long-time league tragic said. ''It leaves other people to be the figureheads or the genuine bosses. He may well be a very smart bloke and an excellent banker but does that make you a good league boss? It's not a move that I could make with a company that I was in charge with. I mean, are you going to get Blocker Roach to run a bank? Everyone who grows up in NSW or Queensland wants to play footy for their team and if they don't get there, then they want to support their team - it's part of the fabric of life on the eastern seaboard and to have a person who runs the game who doesn't have that is very unusual and that's why eyebrows are being raised. It is a strange old world we live in, though - a banker running league, a Kiwi coaching the rugby team and an Irish bloke running Qantas.Remember what happened last time they had a non-league bloke in there - David Moffett - it didn't go that well.''
JT not going to Dogs
MICHAEL ENNIS has not put a foot wrong as Bulldogs skipper so he would have been just one player at the Dogs bemused by the recent appearance of Johnathan Thurston at club headquarters. Thurston treasures leading a team and wherever he goes - or if he stays put - he will want to be skipper. With Josh Reynolds off contract and Kris Keating still on the roster, the grab for Thurston is an awkward one for a club already packed with big stars. The tip-off to the media about Thurston's visit to the Bulldogs did not help their chances. Thurston did not enjoy the publicity and if there was the slightest chance of him joining the Dogs it is gone now. Thurston is still hugely popular in Townsville. The chance to play a game of golf with Thurston and Wendell Sailor, for instance, fetched $5000 at an auction. Sailor spoke at the event and warned Cowboys fans they needed to lay off JT. "They can get angry at him if they like but I think JT is allowed to find out his market value and the fans have to be patient with that," he said. "If they 'go' him, that has the potential to force his hand and it could push him out of the club." All up, $34,500 was raised. James Tamou put up one of his Test jumpers, which went for $2500, a great gesture considering the grief he copped for electing to play for Australia.
SBW sees red over Green
SONNY BILL WILLIAMS rarely fires up but has come out swinging after Danny Green had a crack at his "brother" Quade Cooper for giving boxing a go. Green said it was an insult to boxers. "I don't know why Danny Green would attack blokes trying a new sport," said Williams, who is preparing for his WBA bout on February 8 against Francois Botha. "We are putting ourselves out there and trying to better ourselves in a very tough sport. I respect the sport of boxing - and I know Quade does as well - and it has the great effect of making me a fitter footballer and mentally tougher. What Danny doesn't realise is that this helps raise the profile of boxing. Look at what Anthony Mundine did for the sport - look at what Mundine did for his career. Anthony gave Danny Green a national profile. Maybe Danny is dirty on footballers trying a new sport because he lost the biggest fight of his life to a former footballer. And he didn't just lose the fight; he was so badly beaten Danny Green went into semi-retirement."
Prenter makes big call
RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK'S founding editor Geoff Prenter is a great judge of player and he says Sonny Bill Williams is the best he has ever seen. "I'm talking Raper, Fulton, Langlands, Lewis - you name it - I have not seen a player like him and I don't know when we will see one better,'' Prenter said. ''He can destroy a team in defence and attack and there are not many who can do that. Plus he's a drawcard like you can't believe. I'm not sure the NRL realise what they have on their hands. Round one will be a sell-out against Souths for the Roosters and I've been told they are looking at a million-dollar gate when the Roosters play the Warriors in New Zealand.''
Mitch jockeying back into position
JOCKEY underwear stood by Mitchell Johnson in his time out of the Test side, and after renewing their association into 2013 he has repaid them with an encouraging performance in his recall to the national team in the third Test against the South Africans in Perth. Some sportspeople get embarrassed about modelling in their underwear, but not Johnson. "It's been a great relationship with Jockey and it's good to be doing another season,'' he said. ''Over the last year I've had some time out of cricket and have really enjoyed playing for WA out of the spotlight, allowing time to work on my bowling and batting.'' With wife Jess due to give birth soon to their first child, the 30-year-old fast bowler has plenty on his mind. ''It's an exciting time, and I feel in a great space with Jess expecting mid-December and now playing for Australia at the WACA.''
Landlubber Clarke lends a hand
YOU would have thought Michael Clarke has enough on his plate this summer but the Australian cricket captain is set to help his mates by appearing as special guest speaker at the Loyal Foundation's fourth annual Sail with the Stars gala dinner at the Westin on Thursday night. He will be accompanied by wife Kyly. Other high-profile guests include all the sailors from last year's Sydney to Hobart, including Geoff and Sara Huegill, Anthony Minichiello, Karl Stefanovic, Phil Waugh, Phil Kearns, Kurt Fearnley, Thomas and Elka Whalan, Jude and Lynette Bolton and Layne Beachley.
Fox wary of fine print
CHANNEL NINE and Fox Sports are getting into bed to have a go at the cricket rights but Fox will check exactly what they end up with when the deal is done. It is a lesson they learned the hard way from how the NRL games were divided among the rights holders. While everyone has had a say on the draw - Craig Bellamy unleashed a massive spray about how it will affect player welfare - Fox Sports is fuming about the scheduling for the start of the season. The deal was signed off before Fox knew what was happening with the Thursday night games. It was a deal done by Nine bosses David Gyngell and Jeff Browne. For Gyngell, it was negotiated under very trying circumstances - he was trying to dig Nine out of a financial hole and was about to become a dad. Fox is not happy with a very "soft" opening to its league season: for the Monday night footy slot they have been lumped with the low-rating Newcastle Knights several times.