Israel Folau
Israel Folau

Is Izzy worth it for the Broncos?

So, now that all that Rugby Australia business has been sorted, when will Israel Folau be signing with the Broncos?

Hey, don't laugh, it could happen. Who would have thought he'd go to the AFL?

And look at the facts.

Here you have an elite athlete looking for a job at a bargain basement price, a club coming off a disappointing season with a highly paid outside back in Darius Boyd whose days are numbered, and a supporter base crying out for success.

Needless to say, any thoughts of bringing Folau back to the club he played for in 2009 and 2010 would be met with mixed feelings.

Former Bronco Wendell Sailor, who made a return to rugby league with the Dragons after being banned by Rugby Australia for failing a drug test in 2006, would only say, "He's very talented and everyone deserves a second chance."

Trevor Gillmeister, who played in the Broncos' 1992 grand final win, was more circumspect.

"I think I'll leave it to the NRL. There's people on big bucks to make those decisions but it's a tough call. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but there are just some things you can't say, especially these days.

"I know I'm a bloke who has always got an opinion on everything but this is a hard one. You're damned if you do, damned if you don't. I will say this though: any time I have ever had anything to do with Izzy he has been nothing but respectful, but those things he said were over the top."

 

This does seem like a long time ago. Photo: Darren England.
This does seem like a long time ago. Photo: Darren England.

 

Folau obviously feels at home at Red Hill. In his 39 games for the club in 2009 and 2010 he scored 37 tries, and a return to the Queensland Origin side and Kangaroos would fill the hole left by his departure from the Waratahs and Wallabies nicely.

Okay, so there are a few minor impediments. Like the Broncos have no money, they don't need any more controversy after signing Matthew Lodge and cutting ties Wayne Bennett, and the NRL has said they won't register Folau's contract.

But hey, where there's a will there's a way, and if there has ever been an organisation that can change direction faster than a Porsche 911 it's the NRL.

Commission chairman Peter V'landys and his predecessor Peter Beattie have both been adamant that there is no place in rugby league for Folau, but following the events of the last few days they might be thinking they spoke a little too hastily.

After all, Folau never broke any NRL edicts and was in fact an exemplary employee when he played for the Melbourne Storm and Broncos.

His wrongful dismissal case against Rugby Australia never made it to trial, but the outcome of the action still would have sent a shudder down the spine of any prospective employer considering denying him a job.

Folau and RA may have issued a joint statement saying the matter had been settled amicably, but you only had to look at the smiles on the faces of Folau and his wife Maria as they left the mediation on Wednesday to see who had won in a knockout.

 

Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle is still cleaning up the mess. Photo: AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi
Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle is still cleaning up the mess. Photo: AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi

 

Failing that, you could read the statement. Rugby Australia was forced to make a very clear and unequivocal apology to Folau as part of the settlement. Folau's apology was added on as a brief afterthought. What he did say, was that he never meant to cause any harm to anyone - something he has been saying all along.

Further to that, he then gave his own video statement in which there wasn't a hint of an apology. The clear inference? That he is now free to say and do whatever he wants and no-one can stop him.

And if that includes making a return to rugby league, where will that leave the NRL? Do they really want to go up against a cashed-up, confident Folau whose supporters are itching for another fight?

 

 

Depending on whose version of events you believe - the rumour mill or Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle - RA's decision to sack Folau cost them anywhere between $4 million and $8 million in cash and much, much more than that in public support.

Do V'Landys and his CEO Todd Greenberg want to follow Castle and co down that path?

Of course, for Folau to come to the Broncos two things would have to happen.

Firstly, he would need to take a major pay cut, but even if the payout from RA was at the lower end of the estimates he could afford it.

Secondly Brisbane coach Anthony Seibold would have to want him.

Now let's see, what were those numbers again? Oh yeah, 37 tries in 39 games. Next question?

The only other stumbling block to Folau joining the Broncos or any other NRL club for that matter is whether he wants to stay with rugby.

Is that a possibility? Probably not in Australia.

 

You would think Anthony Seibold would want to steer clear of controversy this year. Photo: Liam Kidston.
You would think Anthony Seibold would want to steer clear of controversy this year. Photo: Liam Kidston.

 

You would have to think that would be part of the settlement agreement, although given how much RA has spent on flogging this dead horse it would be interesting to see how far they would be willing to go to enforce it if a club, or even a Super Rugby franchise other than NSW, decided to test their resolve.

It wouldn't surprise if Twiggy Forrest is eyeing Folau for his rebel competition even as we speak. No-one would take more pleasure in causing more pain to RA than Twiggy, and he's got the bankroll to do it.

Which leads us to another question:

Where does all this leave Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle?

What's that expression about the creek and the paddle?

 

 

 

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Whether it was a mess of her own making or not, Castle is the one who has come out of this looking the worst.

In the space of a few weeks she has been tainted by the miserable showing of the Wallabies at the Rugby World Cup, slammed for her management style by outgoing coach Michael Cheika, presided over an ill-conceived legal action against Folau that cost her cash-strapped organisation millions of dollars, been perceived as a puppet of major sponsor Qantas and is now being criticised for her handling of the latest broadcast deal.

It's hardly a glowing nomination for the CEO of the Year Award.

No wonder the Folaus were the only ones smiling on Wednesday.



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