Cold reality check amid Folau-NRL hype
Rugby league legend Laurie Daley says there's no way he'd sign Israel Folau if the former Wallaby was cleared to return to the NRL amid suggestions multiple clubs are sniffing around for the 30-year-old's services.
Last week Folau and Rugby Australia (RA) agreed on a confidential settlement after he chased $14 million in compensation for being sacked when he said "hell awaits" gay people in an Instagram post last April.
His next step remains to be seen but NRL clubs would reportedly be keen to bring the cross-code superstar in if the league allowed it. On the weekend Brisbane denied reports it had inquired about the possibility of offering Folau a deal and The Daily Telegraph's Dean Ritchie says multiple teams are interested in him, but are keeping quiet until the NRL's stance changes.
New chairman of the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) Peter V'landys has said he doesn't want Folau back in the 13-man-a-side code because his views on homosexuality don't belong in the sport.
"The game is inclusive. Israel's comments are not inclusive," V'landys said last month.
But if that position was to shift and a path emerged for Folau to return to league, then there's every chance he could find himself in the middle of a bidding war, according to Ritchie.
"There are a lot of clubs out there who are talking about Israel Folau in rugby league, they're just too timid at the moment to come forward and say anything because quite clearly he hasn't been cleared yet (by the NRL)," Ritchie said on Sky Sports Radio's Big Sports Breakfast.
"If that stance and rule was lifted I think you'd find club after club would come forward for Israel.
"I think they would be jumping over each other to have a crack at Izzy but the big issue is of course sponsors, and would they approve Israel Folau's return to a club."
Ex-NSW Origin coach Daley said if he was in charge of an NRL club there's no way he'd entertain recruiting Folau, even if he was given the green light to return to rugby league.
Daley said the controversial star's arrival at a club would divide fans, sponsors and teammates and prove more trouble than it's worth - particularly given Folau is in the back half of his career and unlikely to be a long-term signing.
"I'm not paying him anything. I don't bring him to my club," Daley told the Big Sports Breakfast.
"Too much baggage. You divide your club, you divide your sponsors, you divide your members and you probably would even … have some players that would have some concerns with him coming in and fitting in to your culture.
"You just look at sponsors and you look at members, then your playing group - you'd have one or two (against Folau). I'm not saying you'd have half, I'm not saying you'd have three quarters, but you'd definitely have a couple of players that would have major concerns.
"I reckon if you've got a strong playing group and a strong leadership group, they would have massive concerns.
"Why would you want to bring all this disruption to your club when you don't need it?
"I couldn't do it. Why would I want to bring that to my club for two years?"
Daley's comments mirror those of rival rugby boss Alfonso Meyer, the CEO of South African Super Rugby franchise the Bulls. As a stint overseas looms as a possible option for Folau should he wish to continue his rugby career, Meyer said he couldn't justify signing the try-scoring phenomenon even if his on-field talent was undeniable.
"I'm not sure if it is Folau's lawyer, but a lawyer approached us to hear if we are interested in contracting him," Meyer said in an interview with Netwerk24.
"Initially I was excited but if you look at this matter with a sober mind then it's simply not worth the risk. He is controversial and you'll expose yourself by contracting him.
"It's a pity because he is a very special player.
"He is probably among the top two or three players in the world. If it wasn't for his comments, we would have given our all to have him in the group."