NRL gets another reminder of how modern sport works

Luke Doherty Roar Guru

By Luke Doherty, Luke Doherty is a Roar Guru

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    There’ll come a day when no-one will be surprised at any outcome of contractual negotiations.

    That day, for those previously seen as cynics, arrived a long time ago, but some are still living in an age where athletes actually played the sport they loved, administrators made it easy and creating a legacy was king.

    The NRL and Parramatta were, for some strange reason, left stunned yesterday after it was revealed that Israel Folau wouldn’t be coming “home” to rugby league, but instead had succumbed to the temptation of rugby union.

    If either party didn’t see this coming then they have a lot to learn about the way modern sport operates.

    Today, a Wallaby becomes a boxer, a Queensland and Australian fullback turns to the AFL while a fellow Maroon decides to try every sport possible.

    Anyone for squash?

    For some it’s about the challenge, but ultimately the dollar dominates the decision making process.

    That’s nothing new and there’s not anything particularly wrong with it.

    Folau has every right to earn as much as he can while his talent permits him to perform.

    It’s easy for fans to be up in arms about the landscape, but faced with the same choices, wouldn’t you do what is best for your family?

    The shock and surprise from administrators when these decisions are made is stunning in itself.

    Welcome to 2012 where the equation is simple.

    A player puts themselves on the open market and then goes to the highest bidder.

    If officials treated it more like a house auction they wouldn’t be surprised after finding out they didn’t get the mansion after lodging the lowest bid.

    Players have been going to the highest bidder for years, but usually within the one code.

    It used to be the code they loved playing and never considered walking away from.

    Now, it’s not who is paying the money, but just that money is being paid.

    It was interesting seeing Ricky Ponting’s retirement news conference on Thursday afternoon.

    The former Australian captain is one of the last remaining links to an era where people were so passionate about the sport they played that nothing except age could make them give it up.

    Yes, he earns more than any rugby league player could dream of, so the comparison is slightly unfair, but if Punter was an AFL or NRL player he would’ve been a one club man.

    It’s also important to note that loyalty is a two way street and clubs don’t always take that into consideration when contemplating a players future.

    Take Petero Civoniceva as an example in 2007.

    Here was one of the best props in the game, a role model athlete and star performer. For all of that he receives what he, and many others would’ve considered, was a paltry offer compared to his standing in the game.

    It’s not entirely Folau’s fault and he’s hardly breaking the mould with his choices.

    The NRL played its part by bizarrely refusing to register what would’ve been a heavily back ended contract starting in 2013.

    If the player is happy to accept the deal in that form then officials at head office shouldn’t be bothered.

    It’s not as though there hasn’t been precedents set in this area with Mark Gasnier’s cut-price return to the Dragons one of the most recent examples.

    It’s up to the club to juggle their salary cap and if they can convince a player to sign on reduced terms with the promise of vast riches to follow, then good luck to them.

    Parramatta’s suggestion that they be allowed to break the salary cap next season before operating on a reduced cap in 2014 was bordering on lunacy.

    Did they really think the NRL or the other clubs would be happy with that arrangement?

    The whole saga hasn’t been a great look for anyone involved.

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    The Crowd Says (125)

    • December 1st 2012 @ 3:57am
      kingplaymaker said | December 1st 2012 @ 3:57am | ! Report

      The NRL will have the last laugh.

      Like Gasnier after his two years in France, if Folau tried to move to Super rugby and the Wallabies, he would be offered an incentive-based contract which like Gasnier he would refuse as it constitutes hypothetical rather than real earning. Unlike SBW, who was willing to take a vast pay cut to play for the All Blacks, Folau like Gasnier will not play ball.

      What’s more as Folau is likely to take a two year deal in France as SBW and Gasnier did, he would be joining rugby in the World Cup year, which is too late to be a real starter with no experience at international level as SBW found to his cost. This would make Folau very unattractive to the ARU.

      At this stage one of the NRL clubs will have got a big deal set up in advance and Folau will return to the NRL having traversed the globe, at the age of only 25 and with pockets full of gold. Not the worst outcome for all concerned.

      • December 1st 2012 @ 7:39am
        nickoldschool said | December 1st 2012 @ 7:39am | ! Report

        Read he was close to signing with Clermont.

    • December 1st 2012 @ 4:33am
      Johnno said | December 1st 2012 @ 4:33am | ! Report

      Izzy Folau played rugby union as a teenager, has Tongan heritage, this doesn’t totally surprise me. I think he will go alright. He was ahead of someone like Joe Tomane in rugby league, who has now made the wallabies team. Mind you Tomane had a lot of problems and has now switched on and is motivated in rugby and played the sport longer , he was an ex rugby player who switched to league.
      I think Izzy Folau will go well. Surely he has as much talent as someone like Lachie Turner,Rod Davies,Pat Mcabe, Peter Hynes, Drew Mitchell, the honey badger, Cooper Vuna who he was along way ahead of in rugby league too, when Vuna was a rugby league player..
      So at 23 yrs of age I think Izzy Folau could make a good switch . He is 6’5 , he will put the weight back on and get back up to about 105kg-110kg. He will be a handful on the wing George North, Alex Cuthbert style, and surely Izzy Folau has more rugby talent than 6’7 centre/wing Matt Banaghan. I think he will make a good switch. May even be a wallaby blotter for the Lions series , who knows time will tell, next 6 months in French rugby possibly. Will be very interesting

      • December 1st 2012 @ 4:51am
        kingplaymaker said | December 1st 2012 @ 4:51am | ! Report

        Johnno I suppose one question here is whether rugby is whether he is actually going to France/Japan. Who knows, in could be Australian rugby and there’s only one franchise with an empty space in their roster: the New South Wales Waratahs. Admittedly, he would be paid peanuts for such a move.

        • December 3rd 2012 @ 12:57pm
          Col Quinn said | December 3rd 2012 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

          Folau will go to the Tahs, and they need him, on a lower contract than Parramatta because if he had signed a Parramatta (NRL) contract his manger would not have got a cent. Folau’s manager was de-registered by the NRL. The ARU should follow suit and not accept this unethical individual as a registered player’s manager. .

        • December 3rd 2012 @ 2:47pm
          Mr Taylor said | December 3rd 2012 @ 2:47pm | ! Report

          Folau will be on more money at the waratahs than what the eels offer him for next season.

    • Roar Guru

      December 1st 2012 @ 4:43am
      peeeko said | December 1st 2012 @ 4:43am | ! Report

      i donr know if you can compare with gasnier, he only played from round 18 onwards in his first year back. considering most contracts start in november and he joined in july then he was not paid that far unders

    • Roar Guru

      December 1st 2012 @ 5:49am
      sheek said | December 1st 2012 @ 5:49am | ! Report


      I enjoyed this article – both thoughtful & thought provoking.

    • December 1st 2012 @ 7:09am
      Toa said | December 1st 2012 @ 7:09am | ! Report

      Whats old is new again…. recently abnutta delivered his personal version of the “100 greatest All Blacks ever” interestingly enough among his finest top ten AB’s were 3 dual international from 1920’s & 40’s Bob Scott, Bert Cooke & George Nepia. Like Dally Messenger was it a question of money, opportunities, lifestyle or challenge? One things for certain they were all very talented players that had utilise their skill as leverage to elevate them to what they believe was a better offer…… What’s old is new again.

      • Roar Guru

        December 2nd 2012 @ 12:34am
        abnutta said | December 2nd 2012 @ 12:34am | ! Report

        Bob Scott never played league past his teenage years.

        Both Bert Cooke and George Nepia switched to League in the depth of the 1930s depression So it is pretty obvious the change was driven by the dollar.

        If you read his famous biography “I, George Nepia” he states that rugby was always his great love and the financial difficulties he faced as a farmer on the east coast of New Zealand forced his move to league.

        Just like Cooke, Nepia was re-instated to rugby with the dispensation in place during and after World War II.

    • Roar Guru

      December 1st 2012 @ 7:36am
      steve b said | December 1st 2012 @ 7:36am | ! Report

      This guy Izzy is a piece of work , he tells Parra and friends at the club some time ago he wanted out of A.F.L., So the saga begins ,Parra have initial talks all sounds good , but wait can;t fit him under the cap , but the whole time Izzy is saying its not about the money i just want to return to NRL , Parra get told no to any concession in breaching the cap , so then other teams come on board and try to see if they can’t aquire his services , but no he tells everyone no i want to play at Parra and i will wait to see the outcome of the players meeting with the commish , in the meantime Parra had come up with a deal that could work and the ARLC was looking at the proposal .
      As late as Thursday afternoon the word out of Parra was they thought they had found the answer for all to be happy with , and Izzy should be wearing the blue and gold next year , but wait Friday the guy who tells friends and anyone else that would listen its not about the money says i can earn three times as much over their so see ya and thanks for nothing , I can’t be grudge anyone wanting to do the best they can financially out of sport but wow Izzy is the biggest fibber in sport at the moment , i think he would want to look out for the odd lightning bolt from above what a turncoat , no wonder twitter went into meltdown biggest backflip of the year , i think he should go back to church and learn ye shall not con and lie to get what ye want , LOL .

      • December 1st 2012 @ 8:10am
        Kasey said | December 1st 2012 @ 8:10am | ! Report

        I tell you what between Izzy and Kurt Tippett we are really getting a crash course in crass greediness displayed by sports men

        The latest from Kurt…”I didn’t realise what I was doing was wrong..I blame the Crows!”

        Best thing about all these code-hopping shenanigans from Izzy is it will relegate this potentially great sports man and money grubbing sports-turd to nothing more than obscure quiz night answer in the future. Serves him right..When he quits Union in 18 months because ‘his heart’s not in it’ what odds him trying to give football a go? Chad Ochocinco-style That ought to be hilarious…I can’t wait.
        I wonder if the NRLPA will use this as ‘evidence’ of the need for the NRL Salary Cap to be raised?

      • December 1st 2012 @ 8:25am
        Andy said | December 1st 2012 @ 8:25am | ! Report

        He seems to be a bit of a mercenary, that is a good bridge burner. Which may not entirely help him when he is getting older and looking for a contract.

        • Roar Guru

          December 1st 2012 @ 9:01am
          steve b said | December 1st 2012 @ 9:01am | ! Report

          Andy , aint that the truth ..

          • December 1st 2012 @ 9:27am
            oikee said | December 1st 2012 @ 9:27am | ! Report

            We should not be surprised (he turned his back on league to join afl) and to be honest i think this could be a good thing for rugby league.
            What does not kill you makes you stronger right. ?
            I am at the stage where players leaving our code are invisable. Did i watch one game of AFL with Isreal playing. ? No, Sonny Bill, did i watch any games he was invovled in? no.
            Like Jerry Seinfeld would say, “i refuse to watch”.
            These sports are not my codes. I love my code because it gives me joy every single round, every single game.
            In winter i have 26 rounds, then finals, around 250 games i enjoy, plus Origins and World cup next year to sit through,.

            I have no time for rugby, afl, soccer or any other sport, and i have no time for code hoppers.
            If they want to go, go, from now on i wont be getting envovled. I also have our future stars to watch and worry about.
            That is a lot of worry.
            From now on, any player that changes code is struck from my list and not wanted back into my club. I dont care if he thinks he is god.
            I support my code, played in my town, Brisbane. What is going on in other codes in other countires is fodder, folly and has no impact on who i support. They might as well be playing on the mooon, i could not care less.
            I surgest all league fans adopt this attitude. Lets give the players some back. As far as i am concerned, i hope Isreal never comes back to league. I hope a young kid like a Barba, or Sims, or Talolomo or a Aussie Indigenous boy takes his cash.
            It seems to me that islanders and kiwis seem to have some nasty traits. Alot of them have a union background. Our code needs to be careful of this and i read a way of stopping these code hoppers flat. Draw up league contracts for the whole year, not the 8-10 months they have now.

            So if he went to play union, he could not register as a league player until the year after. 🙂
            That will fix them,. I have had a gutfull.

            • Roar Guru

              December 1st 2012 @ 10:02am
              steve b said | December 1st 2012 @ 10:02am | ! Report

              yeah have to agree oikee its about time they put something in place so it makes it that bit harder to code jump ! The thing with izzy is that he stated at the start he would leave the door open for union then he stated after talks with Parra that he didn;t want to play for anyone else and would wait to see the outcome of further negotiations with the eels and the NRL , Then their was some light at the end of the tunnel he pulls this stunt , yeah good riddance , He has done nothing but B.S.from the start to his mates and to everybody else that was trying to help him get what he wanted and he supposed to be a churchy W.T.F !!

              • December 1st 2012 @ 10:19am
                oikee said | December 1st 2012 @ 10:19am | ! Report

                Players might think that code hopping will become the norm. I disagree.
                The way that this is effecting rugby league is beyond the joke, and if anything, our code has to stop it from happening,. The yearly contract will stop players from doing a short turnaround and play both codes.
                These players need a break, and it should be the “duty of care” factor that rugby league introduces. Make the contracts for a whole year, from Xmas to Xams, so any contract to union or back to league will take a year out of work for that player. This is about money, lets not sugarcoat this, but for players to say they are doing it for their family is nonsense. What 1 million not enough for you in a year. ?

                I mentioned the other day about duty of care. I also mentioned the “in the Spirit of the game”.
                As far as i am concerned, this is now outside the spirit of our game.
                This is not American greed, or some vigilante show like Dog, bounty hunter.
                This is rugby league with people who have family values, and family ethics and codes.
                What these players are doing is no longer what i see as “the Spirit of the game”.

                The last thing rugby league wants is to lose me. That is when the rot will truely set in.

              • December 1st 2012 @ 3:59pm
                polly said | December 1st 2012 @ 3:59pm | ! Report

                Why shouldn’t players change codes ? Would you like to be restrained from changing jobs because someone didn’t like your new choice of work ?
                There seems to be one major point of difference between Union & League- Union clubs seem to actually have the money to pay players & League has a cap to save the game from destroying itself because some clubs can & some can’t.
                Not knocking league, it is doing what it has to in order to maintain an interesting & viable competition, but it is manufactured as far as the cap goes.
                It seems that going to union, be it Europe or Japan, the money on offer is both substantially more & is actually payable ( & without breaking any rules) & that must be attractive to players who have the ability to command interest.

            • December 1st 2012 @ 10:29am
              Chui said | December 1st 2012 @ 10:29am | ! Report

              Im sorry Oikee, but a statement like islanders and kiwis having nasty traits cannot go unchallenged.

              Would you care to elaborate with some detail and facts.

              Either that or withdraw it and apologise, because it stinks of racism. or are you saying a Union background is to blame.

              • December 1st 2012 @ 11:01am
                oikee said | December 1st 2012 @ 11:01am | ! Report

                Sorry, yes that should have read that Kiwis and Islanders have nasty traits for leaving rugby league and moving back to rugby union for the bigger dollars on offer.
                Is what this was intended to mean.
                If they dont want to stay in rugby league, why bother joining the code.
                Look, Israel Falou has now betrayed rugby league twice.
                Once to go to AFL, now to go to Union in France.
                It is time, it is time for the demolition to begin. Australia and Australian fans should not have to be pushed around and used as fools for these code hoppers.

                It is time rugby league took back it’s ethics, it’s morals and it’s freedom. Greed needs to be shown the door, sent packing . No longer should we listen to lies and deciet.

              • December 1st 2012 @ 11:04am
                Darwin Stubbie said | December 1st 2012 @ 11:04am | ! Report

                It’s not racism … It’s just ignorant bullsh1t

              • December 1st 2012 @ 11:49am
                Emric said | December 1st 2012 @ 11:49am | ! Report


                Then what do you think of the players who have left Rugby in New Zealand, for League in Australia, NZ Rugby has been used as a recruitment ground of Australian league. Now that these guys are choosing to come home you get upset?

              • December 1st 2012 @ 1:10pm
                oikee said | December 1st 2012 @ 1:10pm | ! Report

                Emric, it is very hard for me to respond. I am being moderated and i cant even respond to questions half the time. The response i gave to Chui was after being moderated for 15 minutes. I cant respond like this. it is like i have no voice.

              • December 1st 2012 @ 7:13pm
                Greg said | December 1st 2012 @ 7:13pm | ! Report

                Emric, translated, oikee means “that is a very valid point which will destroy my argument, and therefore I can not respond without making a fool of myself”

              • Roar Guru

                December 2nd 2012 @ 10:34pm
                jeznez said | December 2nd 2012 @ 10:34pm | ! Report

                Chui, DS, Emric and Greg – well played sirs.

              • December 8th 2012 @ 3:50am
                Philly said | December 8th 2012 @ 3:50am | ! Report

                Seems like a valid point from Oikee. New Zealand and the islands’ top sport is Union. Makes sense that players of those origins would ultimately like to play the sport they probably grow up dreaming about. And, no, there is no reason you had to “challenge” his statement. Stinks of politically correctness.

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