It lingered and lingered and lingered, but the saga is finally over, as Israel Folau has made the decision on his future – one that has left many Eels and NRL fans disgruntled, for varying reasons
Initially, reports suggested that Folau was keen to play with his mates at the Parramatta Eels, and after tough negotiations with the NRL to have that eventuate, when salary cap auditor Ian Schubert had things finalised with the Eels, Folau bailed.
Some believe that the game will miss him next year, whereas others do not – as Folau will now play in his third footy code, this time in the game of rugby union, somewhere in Europe.
As the tense negotiations went on and on, interim NRL CEO Shane Mattiske said that the NRL worked constantly with the Eels to have his contract registered, and it is a shame he chose to go in a different direction.
“It would have been nice to see Israel back in the NRL because it is the game he is most suited to and the one that I think would have given him the biggest challenge in facing the best athletes in the most exciting contests week in and week out,” Mattiske said.
“Ultimately though it is his choice and we have to respect that. I think Parramatta has done everything possible and we have certainly worked closely with them in that process.”
One individual who was left befuddled by the decision from Folau, was Eels CEO Ken Edwards, who thought that a deal was always going to be brokered at some point, despite the ongoing negotiations – without thinking Folau would choose a different option.
“This has come as something of a surprise to us today,” said Edwards.
“Our offer to Israel was unconditional. We have worked closely with the NRL and have always been confident that salary cap issues would be resolved.”
Despite the change in heart by Folau, however, Edwards says that coach Ricky Stuart is pleased with the squad at his disposal for 2013.
“It is disappointing that at this stage, Izzy has chosen to pursue another path, but we've also been clear that we are about having players who are focused on what we are trying to achieve as a club,” said Edwards.
“It is why we previously ruled out short-term appearances with other codes. We are comfortable with our playing roster ahead of the 2013 NRL season.”