NRL players refusing to blame Folau - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

NRL players refusing to blame Folau

By Steve Jancetic & Adrian Warren 01/06/2010 07:43:53 PM Comments (0)

NRL players claim the code's inadequate ability to reward its superstars with appropriate salaries are to blame for Israel Folau's defection to AFL.

Folau on Tuesday signed a four-year deal believed to be worth $6 million to play with new AFL franchise Greater Western Sydney, the move seen as a major coup for a code looking to grab a share of rugby league's dominance in the area.

Canterbury veteran Luke Patten said Folau would have been "crazy" to have let the opportunity slip, with the 21-year-old now having his financial future set.

"You can't have a grudge there with the bloke - you've got to look after yourself," Patten said.

"You're only in the sport for a certain amount of time ... I just hope the NRL gets its act together and we stop losing these players.

"I just feel that rugby league could be so much better than what it is - I think we've got the best product but we just seem to be losing all the best players."

Asked whether Folau was to blame for turning his back on rugby league, Patten said:

"You'd have to take it, you're crazy not to.

"The thing with rugby league is you're playing the hardest game week in and week out for the least amount of money on offer."

NRL chief executive David Gallop admitted the league was in the process of improving pay conditions for its players.

Central to that is the financial windfall expected from the new broadcast deal, but even Gallop was forced to concede competing with offers like the rumoured $1.5 million a season being paid to Folau were beyond the NRL.

"We are looking at our payment system at the moment and we are looking to fine tune it but it's all about affordability," Gallop said.

"As (Brisbane chief executive) Bruno Cullen said this offer blows out of the water what we can currently afford."

Folau said he had welcomed the support of fellow NRL players.

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity that I couldn't knock back," he said.

"I love the game of rugby league and I've played that since I was young but I've made the choice to come over to AFL and I'm going to do my best to make it a successful transition."

Asked whether he would rule out a return to rugby league once his AFL deal expired, Folau said:

"I certainly wouldn't (rule it out) but four years is a long time - four years ago I didn't even know I'd be playing NRL.

"You could probably ask me that in four years time and I wouldn't know."

Gallop said the door would remain open for Folau to come back.

"We often see players come back and they are welcome back and he will be in the same category," Gallop said.

While Folau becomes the second high profile NRL player after Karmichael Hunt to switch to AFL, Gallop said he didn't fear a player raid on the code.

The Australian Rugby Union poached five stars during its raid on rugby league, but Gallop said he didn't envisage the AFL going after more of the NRL's top line talent.

"I think this is probably a pretty unique circumstances, as was Karmichael Hunt's circumstances up at the Gold Coast," Gallop said of Folau's signing.

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