Off the Wall

The ARL has made the right call in banning Israel Folau from any role with the Tongan team in the lead up to Sunday's match against Samoa - a curtain raiser to the opening Four Nations Test match between the Kangaroos and the Kumuls.

The ARL's stance has been criticised by Kevin Sheedy - who in a couple of week's time will be Folau's coach as the Western Sydney AFL team. Enough said!

As Geoff Carr said yesterday, if Folau is interested in promoting rugby league in Tonga, how come he has accepted the AFL's millions? You can bet your last dollar that if he is doing any promotional work in Tonga it will be for the AFL!

The tough stance against Folau cannot be compared with the David Vidot issue. I remain of the view that he should have been allowed to play for Samoa - and David Vidot is not switching codes!

I hope the ARL, or the Independent Commission if and when it is established, addresses the whole issue of how to deal with players who switch to another code mid-season.

And it especially needs to address the issue of players who potentially have years ahead of them in the game and who switch code to be used as a marketing tool by another code - and the AFL in particular.

When Israel Folau signed with the Western Sydney AFL team mid season - and in the middle of the Origin series - his representative career should have ended then and there.

The game's administrators need to put in place a tough, no nonsense policy that club officials, and Origin officials, cannot circumvent.

If a player is being signed by another code principally as a PR stunt to use against rugby league - and that is clearly what Folau and Karmichael Hunt were recruited for - then rugby league might fight back.

And fighting back means ending their representative careers - and in my view their NRL careers need to be reviewed as well.

I was frankly appalled at the way Folau was made almost a hero by some of his teammates during the Origin series, and in the remainder of the NRL premiership.

The only way to stop that is for the game's administrators to put in place tough protocols. The  guiding principal ought to be that if you switch codes, and do so in a way and at a time that allows the other code to use you as a marketing/PR tool, then your rugby league career ends then and there.

On that basis, both Folau and Hunt should not have been allowed to play out the season with the Broncos, let alone play Origin football.

Let's put the boot on the other foot - can you imagine if a young high profile AFL player switched mid-season to rugby league, Andrew Demetriou would gladly allow him to be used to promote rugby league in Melbourne while still playing AFL?

That simply would not be allowed to happen.

And it must not be allowed to happen in the NRL in the future. Before the start of the 2011 season water tight protocols must be in place - to prevent a repeat of the nonsense we had to put up with last season, and this season.

The AFL is targeting rugby league territory for a number of reasons - boosting its television audience is key among them. But it is also after rugby league's sponsors, and our juniors.

The AFL is cashed up.  They are a significantly greater threat than soccer or rugby union.

If the AFL wants to take on rugby league it is free to do so - but we don't need to, and cannot afford to, give it a helping hand!

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