Eels spurn Tahs target Izzy
Gave the Eels the flick ... Israel Folau. Photo: Getty Images
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.
But while the Eels are furious with Folau, the NSW Waratahs have emerged as a possible home for the code-hopper. Despite speculation suggesting Folau would pursue a rugby career in France of Japan, the NSW Super Rugby side has emerged as the frontrunner for his services.
''Are the Waratahs on the cards? Definitely …'', a source close to Folau's camp said.
Folau burned 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. Fairfax Media received an insight into the contempt Parramatta now hold for Folau, and his manager Isaac Moses, when a high-level Eels source was asked if Folau would be given a second chance to join the club if he had a change of heart.
''If Israel Folau changed his mind tomorrow he would not get a crack here,'' the source said. ''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.''
The Eels fought hard to try 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. 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 away 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. If you were to ask anyone how we're feeling, well, no one at Parramatta is moping about. If anything, there is a feeling it is good to know he is someone who doesn't keep his word.
''There is a sense of relief the club has found out the character of the bloke before handing over millions of dollars. We got a cheap lesson, but a disappointing one all the same.
''It all dragged on [the NRL salary cap situation]. Ricky Stuart said weeks ago it was stupid to be banging his head on the brick wall [to try and work out a deal with the NRL] and they all laughed when he said [Folau] would be lost to rugby union … I hope they're not laughing still.''
Parramatta went all-out to sign Folau after the 23-year-old terminated his multimillion-dollar deal with the Greater Western Sydney AFL franchise.