As many as six NRL clubs are in the running for Israel Folau’s services, although he will cost bidding teams a considerable price tag.
Folau has previously considered a return to rugby league. Almost six years ago, when he departed AFL club Greater Western Sydney, he received a massive offer from the Parramatta Eels worth an estimated $3 million over four years.
But Folau instead opted to sign with the Australian Rugby Union, and rugby league appeared to miss its big opportunity to grab him.
Folau’s best chance to return to rugby league is via third-party deals where he would get paid under the under the salary cap. Other third-party opportunities would hinge on how badly his reputation has been tarnished in the wake of his recent derogatory comments on social media about homosexuals.
But former Melbourne Storm and Sydney Roosters recruitment chief Peter O’Sullivan affirms that vying clubs must accommodate for the fact that Folau may require a role change.
“Being out of the game for so long, I don’t know if he would have the motor to play fullback in the modern game,” O’Sullivan told The Australian.
“He would have to be satisfied with being the best centre in the game. It would take him an off-season and a couple of rounds to get back to his absolute peak. Within a month he would be the best right centre in the world.”
When asked if clubs could justify spending big dollars on a centre, O’Sullivan said: “Yes. When you talk about Folau as a centre, you’re talking about the elite of the elite.”
“You’re coming from a place he can score so many tries and have such an impact on the game — he delivers everything you want from a footballer.”
O’Sullivan was quick to defend Folau’s character when questioned about the gay slur scandal.
“They don’t know him,” he said. “He is a beautiful soul.”
Few clubs are considered to have the necessary cap room to sign Folau, but the Eels, Storm, Knights and Bulldogs are possible landing spots.
Finding the financial space to accommodate for Folau’s big contract could act as the biggest roadblock to any possible deal.