Off the Wall

It is apparent that Israel Folau will today sign with the new Sydney AFL Team, so it is time for me to warn Sydney and NSW readers who they are in for.

The warning is quite simple - get ready for the greatest load of PR drivel, hype and nonsense you have ever seen!

That is what the people of the Gold Coast, and Queensland generally, have had to put up with ever since Karmichael Hunt defected to the Gold Coast AFL team last year.

The PR campaign by the AFL ever since has quite frankly been pathetic. But the good thing about it being pathetic is that decent, genuine AFL coaches and players are increasingly fed up with it as well!

The latest is the Brisbane Lions coach, Michael Voss, who yesterday publicly attacked the decision by the AFL to tip a reported $1 million a year into a league convert instead of funding grass roots football which he had believed was the priority. And in doing so he joins arguably the greatest AFL player/coach of them all, Leigh Matthews, who has been critical of the whole nonsense from the outset.

To show just how pathetic the whole PR nonsense has become readers might look online at today's Brisbane "Courier Mail".

The main back page photo is Karmichael Hunt on the Surfers Paradise beach with an ALF football - wearing black trousers and highly polished black shoes!

Sydney readers will see similar photos of Folau...but I am not sure which Western Sydney "beach" he will be photographed on! And there will be story after story telling you how wonderfully well his skills are developing!

Time alone will tell just how much the two million dollar PR stunts by the AFL will deliver on the Gold Coast and now in Western Sydney.

But one thing is clear - the payments of such huge sums to rugby league players who are totally untried and untested in AFL football is widely criticised in AFL ranks. Long may it continue!

The defection of Folau differs from that of Hunt in one significant respect.

There is not the slightest doubt Hunt delayed the announcement of his defection until after the end of the 2009 Origin season.

At least Folau and his team have not tried to pull that deception - and by being upfront they have put his position in the Queensland team for Origin Two at risk. That deserves to be acknowledged.

If the Sydney television ratings are a guide, Folau has the job in front of him, as does the Western Sydney AFL team. The Swans games on free to air, and other AFL matches, frankly rate appallingly - and are getting worse!

And the three million or so being tipped into Folau's pockets is three million less being spent on grass roots development!

There is one aspect of Folau's defection that rugby league needs to consider very carefully.

In Western Sydney, and South East Queensland, rugby league is strong, and getting stronger, because of the enormous influence of players with a Pacific Island heritage.

Folau, given his own Pacific Island heritage, is therefore a significant  recruitment.

The AFL is putting serious dollars into the development of the AFL in PNG and the Pacific Islands. Mal Michael is one player - his heritage is PNG - who helped raise the profile of the game in the South Pacific. Unquestionably, the AFL will use Folau to do so as well.

The ARL , and the International Rugby League, is putting a wholly inadequate amount into the game in the Pacific.

If Folau's defection wakes officialdom up, then we will gain something positive out of Folau's departure.

Oh - and forget the nonsense about Folau wanting to "try his hand" at another code. Like Hunt, he is going to collect about double what rugby league could offer.

This is all about dollars - and no sense!

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