When the AFL secured the recruiting coup of Rugby league star, and future marquee man Israel Folau it was never going to be about Folau’s ability to switch codes and demonstrate his sporting ability in front of another audience.
The signing was about the marketing of Western Sydney, and an ego contest between the AFL and NRL. The AFL were always going to find it difficult to gain pack page stories, air time, and break into water cooler conversations around the western parts of Sydney, but have managed to achieve this through the man mountain we know as Israel Folau.
Folau is a natural league player, a big brute of a man who is a gifted athlete, and David Gallop and his cronies would have been looking at him to lead the PR machine for rugby league around the country. Enter Andrew Demetriou and his cheque book. What better to way to prove you are bigger than another sport, than to take a future star, place him into league territory and showboat him around. It was a battle of the ego’s that the AFL have won, but now in 2012 we get to see if Izzy is any good at his chosen new sport.
Watching the preseason competition you would say Folau is doing well for someone who has just picked up the game. Unfortunately he is playing in the most elite competition, and there is no room for errors. If Folau was some 18 year old rookie trying to get a kick he wouldn’t have even been mentioned for his performances so far. It would be more likely the list manager would be threatening a potential locker clean out, if things didn’t improve.
So why the Izzy phenomenon? I must have missed the AFL media release to praise everything Folau can do, even if most suburban footballers are running around matching his talent. People must remember that he chose the money over a league career. As fans, we need to look at Folau, as we would anyone else on the list and have those same expectations. If Folau is struggling, and a young kid is playing well, then the young kid deserves his place in the team. Not Folau who will attract more patrons through the gates.
The harsh reality for Folau is that he will be forever remembered as an AFL marketing tool, unless he truly becomes a star of the game (highly unlikely). He could have been an NRL star, but will be remembered as an AFL tool.Google+