Israel Folau is one of the biggest footy stories from the last ten years. For the AFL to seduce such a gifted and high profile NRL player into playing Footy was a PR bonanza. But there is more to great marketing than stunts…
From what I understand, Folau is a fantastically skilled Rugby player – born with everything he needed to excel in a bone crunching sport. NRL is not to my personal preference, but Israel certainly made an impact, playing State of Origin and in a premiership for Melbourne.
What concerns me is the question mark around the money vs. the motivation. Karmichael Hunt at least played AFL as a teenager. Folau’s exposure to AFL did not amount to much prior to joining GWS, from what I can see.
Why would an NRL star, entering into his peak years as an athelete – 22 or 23 years old, want to chuck it all in and start learing an entirely new game? A game that may not suit his physical make up?
Not sure about NRL, but AFL players seem to peak around 25 – 26 years of age. A hundred games under the belt, a fully developed body, and a deep understanding of the game all combine to elevate good players to great. Folau is going to spend his peak years as an athlete learning a brand new game rather than refining his existing skills and abilities to an elite level that people will remember for years to come.
I suspect that Israel will go back to NRL or Union in 2015 as soon as the cash dries up. He will be pushing 27 years of age. I wonder if he will look back and wonder if he wasted the 4 years he spent in the AFL. Four years where he could have been winning premierships in the NRL, playing great Rugby League, representing his state and the country, and enjoying the game he grew up playing.
Sporting prowess is a gift that has a finite lifespan. Most athletes have about ten years as adults to fully realise their talent and achieve their goals. It is brutishly short. To spend four of these years being paid $6mill (est.) for being vitrually the oldest Auskicker in the country is not great marketing for the AFL, and is something I would regret if I were in Folau’s shoes.
Money is not everything in sport. Sure, it is important, but for Izzy to give up so much could be something he may look back and regret when he is my age. Probably whilst driving his Ferrari with an ex Miss Australia sitting in the passenger seat…