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Folau has been in Parra plans for long time

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Adrian Proszenko

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'No surprise' as GWS recruit Israel Folau quits AFL

Our footy experts analyse Israel Folau's decision to quit the AFL.

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About 18 months ago, Parramatta officials first sat down and debated whether to focus their energy on signing Israel Folau or Sonny Bill Williams.

It was only a matter of time before the the code jumpers were going to return to the sport which made them famous and the Eels wanted to be in the best position to jag one of the prodigal sons.

While former coach Steve Kearney met once with Williams, it quickly became apparent the dual international was out of their price range. Instead, Roosters supremo Nick Politis, a good friend of Parramatta chairman Roy Spagnolo, quickly sealed a handshake deal. Spagnolo's focus 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."

Israel Folau announces his retirement from the AFL at Thursday's press conference with GWS coach Kevin Sheedy.

Israel Folau announces his retirement from the AFL at Thursday's press conference with GWS coach Kevin Sheedy. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Since then the key figure in negotiations between the Eels and the GWS pin-up has been Peter Nolan. The Eels recruitment guru, who is close to Folau's manager Isaac Moses, was the man instrumental in luring Folau from Melbourne to Brisbane and it appears he has again got his man. As far back as April, Fairfax Media revealed the Eels were Folau's most likely destination if he were to switch back to the NRL.

It is believed negotiations between the parties have been intensified in recent months. However, Ken Edwards, the newly appointed chief executive of the Eels football club, denied that a deal was done.

"He is the sort of player and person that we are certainly interested in," he said. "We could see him fitting into the culture that we are building here and we could see him being a part of the club going forward. We would possibly have some salary cap issues in the first year we are yet to discuss with the NRL. We would be interested and we would seek to talk to his management."

Folau's brother, John, is already at Parramatta, while another, Eni, also spent time in the Eels system. Folau has also been spotted as a guest of Parramatta officials at NRL games during his stint with the Giants. He also has an affinity with the area having grown up in Minto and befriended Jarryd Hayne in their schoolboy days.

The Eels have shed several high-profile players including Nathan Hindmarsh, Luke Burt, Shane Shackleton and Justin Poore. Officials were on Thursday finalising their salary cap position for 2013 and believe they have sufficient space in future years should they need to entice the Queensland and Australian three-quarter. Thursday's announcement prompted sportsbet.com.au to slash the Eels' premiership odds from $34 to $23 for next year.

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