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Union must fight for Folau

Sat, 20 Jul 2013 16:33
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If we didn't keep Izzy on board, I think we'd be crazy
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Letting Israel Folau return to Rugby League would be a 'crazy' move, according to one of the most respected figures in Australian Rugby Union.

This comes in the wake of media reports that Nation Rugby League is considering a new 'marquee player' option, which will allow NRL clubs to sign players outside of the salary cap - to help keep superstars like Folau in League.

Folau announced himself on the Test scene in stunning circumstances last month, as he bagged a brace of tries in the opening international against the British & Irish Lions in Brisbane.

The Lions may have ended up 23-21 winners in the opening rubber and 2-1 victors in the three-match series, but Folau's performances earmarked him as one of the biggest stars in the global game.

The 24-year-old finished off Will Genia's fine break for his first try at the Suncorp Stadium before producing a stunning run from 40 metres out to claim his second in the same fixture as he capped a remarkable Test debut.

The fact that Folau had only been playing Union for four months prior to facing the Lions made his efforts even more eye catching and immediately led the Australian public to pin their future hopes on the former Australian Rules Footballer.

But with Rugby League clubs poised to try and prize Folau back into the 13-man code once his contract with the Waratahs and Australian Rugby Union runs out later this year, Tahs assistant coach Alan Gaffney is urging both parties to stand firm and make Folau the kind of offer he simply can't refuse.

"Rugby, if we didn't keep Izzy on board, I think we'd be crazy. And I'm talking about both the NSW Waratahs and the ARU," said the former Saracens, Ireland and Leinster coach Gaffney.

"I think they want to run down that path. I just hope the powers that be make sure that we do retain Izzy in Union. As far as I know, [talks are] pretty well advanced.

"He's a publicity machine. He's a marketing machine as such. I'm not trying to use Izzy as that because he's made up for himself just in his general play. He's just a good player and a good guy, which is more important. We've had a fantastic time with Izzy and I hope that continues."

Tongues have been wagging since Bulldogs boss Todd Greenberg was spotted sitting next to Folau at the State of Origin match last week.

They watched from seats outside the chairman's suite at ANZ Stadium, where Folau is employed as an ambassador to mix with sponsors and guests.

And, according to a report in the Sunday Telegraph, this is because the NRL are considering the marquee player option.

The Bulldogs have a Leagues club that makes a AU$30 million annual profit, yet can't sign the Wallaby wing because of the salary-cap restrictions.

A marquee player exempt from the cap would allow them to pay Folau AU$1 million-plus a year and secure his signature immediately.

The NRL's chief operating officer Jim Doyle says the marquee player allowance has to be considered amongst other ideas.

"We will consider everything," Doyle told the newspaper.

"The salary cap has to be modernised. We all agree on that. It is designed to keep a level playing field and stop clubs from going broke.

"But we have to make sure something is in place to ensure we keep our best players."

Greenberg would not go into detail about his night at the football and conversations with Folau.

But he likes the system so successfully used in football and other major sports.

"It's got merit and we should consider it," he said.

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