Qld Greats support backflip on Folau - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Qld Greats support backflip on Folau

By Wayne Heming and Laine Clark 08/06/2010 08:50:54 PM Comments (0)

It was the text that steeled Israel Folau for arguably the toughest day of his rugby league career.

As debate raged over the AFL defector's retention in the Maroons side, Gene Miles revealed on Tuesday that Queensland's Former Origin Greats (FOGS) had thrown their support behind the 21-year-old and asked him to "rip in" against NSW next Wednesday night in Brisbane.

Folau would have been forgiven for feeling anxious as he prepared for the inevitable furore over his controversial Origin nod, barely a week after revealing he would link with AFL newcomers Greater Western Sydney.

But just hours before the daunting task of facing the media, he was breathing a sigh of relief after reading an unexpected message on his phone.

Queensland selector and former Maroons great Miles revealed the FOGS felt compelled to send Folau a show of support to ensure he would not "get lost" in the criticism over his selection.

"He's a 21 year-old kid who probably felt the world was against him," Miles told AAP.

"We (FOGS) received a stack of telephone calls, emails and texts, mostly from high profile former players, giving overwhelming support to Folau.

"We wanted him to know we were behind him and that we wanted him to rip in against NSW."

Folau replied to the text, vowing to honour the Maroon jersey and "give 100 per cent".

"It's awesome to have the support of those guys and to be given another opportunity to play for Queensland," the softly spoken Folau told AAP.

Folau's hopes of extending his six-game Origin career appeared dashed after the Maroons hierarchy called for the flyer to be dropped from the Queensland team following his multi-million AFL deal last week.

But Queensland completed a stunning backflip by retaining Folau on Tuesday following a change of attitude from senior Maroons, namely skipper Darren Lockyer and Petero Civoniceva.

The turning point came when coach Mal Meninga pleaded Folau's case on behalf of the players to Queensland selectors on Monday.

"We were all emotional last week but we never said we weren't going to pick him, that's the answer to it," explained Meninga, who played 32 Origins.

"When the emotion dies down the rationale comes in.

"We've taken all the pettiness and prejudice out of it and looked at what the team wants.

"What's most important in the whole selection process is who the players want to play with and they want to play with Israel Folau.

"Us old blokes understand the jersey, they understand what it means to wear it.

"I think this group understands the enormity of putting on a maroon jersey too."

Lockyer said not selecting Folau "penalises the whole team".

"He's a mate of ours, he's been part of the team," said the 31-game Origin veteran, explaining his change of heart after last week speaking out against Folau's selection.

"By not selecting Israel, it penalises the whole team.

"We also wanted to stick up for our mate.

"In the end, the code thing didn't come into our discussions, it was more about this team."

While Miles sent the text to Folau on behalf of the FOGS, rugby league Immortal and Queensland's first Origin captain Arthur Beetson has refused to back down from claims the youngster should not have been retained.

But Meninga said: "Arthur's got an opinion, that's fine.

"There's always going to be arguments for and against. We make a decision about Izzy and we may be criticised, but so be it."

Folau said he had tried to block Origin speculation from his mind.

"It was in the back of my mind (not playing Origin again), but I didn't want it to be a worry for me and I didn't want it to affect my form with the Broncos," he said.

"I spoke to Mal when I made my (AFL) decision and told him if they considered me for the Origin series I'd give 100 per cent for Queensland.

"I just can't wait to get out there on Wednesday night."

Queensland welcomed back hooker Cameron Smith and replaced the injured Civoniceva with prop Ben Hannant in the only changes from the first game won 28-24 by the Maroons.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2024 AAP

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