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Folau's defection 'no cause for panic'

By Wayne Heming 01/06/2010 05:19:09 PM Comments (0)

No other club has suffered cross code poaching like the Brisbane Broncos but chief executive Bruno Cullen says Israel Folau's defection to the AFL is no cause for NRL panic.

If Cullen's information is correct then Folau has overnight become the highest paid Australian-based player across all four football codes.

Folau has yet to kick an AFL goal yet, according to Cullen, the AFL has agreed to shell out a staggering $6 million to secure his services for the Greater Western Sydney franchise.

"We're talking $6 million over four years," said Cullen. "That's what I've heard. We (rugby league) can't match that.

"Everyone has to understand the money is not in our game to match these types of offers."

The high-profile Broncos have seen a stream of stars depart to other codes since 2001 with Brad Thorn, Wendell Sailor, Lote Tuqiri and Berrick Barnes going to rugby union before the AFL moved in for Karmichael Hunt and now Folau.

But a philosophical Cullen dismissed fears rugby league was under threat of more AFL poaching.

"It's a very unique situation," he said.

"You've got two very high profile rugby league players being asked to be public relations figures, to be the face of two new AFL franchises that are moving into traditional rugby league heartlands.

"I think it's a very smart move by the AFL and those clubs to lift their profile.

"It's somewhat amusing that a code like the AFL, who want to spout about being the most popular and largest footy code in the country, needs two rugby league players to introduce two new franchises.

"In saying that, I can understand what they are doing because we are talking about rugby league territory and a public relations exercise more than getting two good AFL players at this point in time."

Cullen admitted the Broncos were sorry to lose Folau and would "definitely" take him back if things didn't work out in Australian Rules.

"He's a great young kid with all his football still in front of him. We were hoping that was going to be with us for the next 10 years or so," he said.

"We lost Brent Tate to the Warriors (NRL club), it's not that much different.

"You lose high profile players to other clubs, to rugby union, overseas (English league) and now to AFL.

"The disappointment is losing a quality person not that they are jumping to another code."

Cullen also warned the AFL that the time was coming when they would have to throw big dollars to get players for the new franchises who were proven performers in the game.

"If they can't win games then they're not going to attract people to their grounds and they're not going to be successful," he said.

Cullen could not knock Folau's decision.

"You have to put yourself into their shoes," he said.

"You have to think about what you might talk to your son about if he came home one day and said: `what do I do dad?'.

"He's not 21 yet (he turned 21 in April) and that type of deal can set him up financially for the rest of his life if he invests it well."

"I'm not going to bag him for it at all. It's a fantastic offer and one that would be extremely difficult for any of us to knock back."

He said Folau's Broncos teammates would be "pretty cool" about it as they saw out the rest of the season together.

"We've been through the exercise a number of times before with Wendell (Sailor), Lote (Tuqiri), Thornie (Brad Thorn) and Karmichael (Hunt) and Berrick (Barnes).

"The players will wish him well, they'll get on with their job, and they'll want him to be in the best frame of mind for his last few months at the club."

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