Can he make the step?

It’s been a contrasting week for Israel.

One has had a shocker while the other has landed a nice earner with GWS. I leave debate about the former as one should never talk about politics and sport in the same thread, FINA and IOC corruption withstanding. Instead, I invite discussion on the latter as the topic, while being done to death, does raise some interesting issue not least being the kick in the bollocks the contract has given to 100s of elite players.
However, let’s focus on the main issue and the one that should be the primary point of any argument for and against the decision. Will the guy make it at senior AFL level? I have listed a few pros and cons that I can think about but I’m happy to be shot down in flames in the name of debate.
Pro – Big Boy, great athlete – There is no denying that Folou is big unit who is mobile and fast over 50 metres. This places in key position territory.

Con – There are 50 plus players running around football with similar physical attributes who have several major advantages. They know how the game works, what positions do what, they know the rules and the biggie, they can mostly kick and handball.

Pro – Elite athletes from other sports have changed over with great success
Con – Yes all of about 6 on them in the history of the game all of which were cited by the Token Coach (TC) on Tuesday. Most of who were playing Footie as their second sport and therefore having the advantages listed above. He can’t kick.
Pro – TC will be able be able to teach him all there is to know and TC is patient and willing to accept that mistakes will be made as he adjusts to the new code.
Con- Patient until his 1st clanger in an intra-club game that has the runner dragging him quicker than you could blink. In the formative development years up until the age of 5 we humans effectively learn all of our gross and fine motor skill as well as proximal distal control, hand eyes coordination etc etc. After this age we simply refine those skills but unless you have been exposed to a skill set, it is extremely difficult to learn it. He is a brilliant mark of high bombs but this would be illegal in the present nanny state of AFL. He can’t kick
Pro – Folou is a gifted athlete and gifted athletes can tum their hand to any sport of skill
Con – Well, why isn’t Gazza lining up for Australia at the next Olympics? Athletes have an innate learnt response that kicks in depending on the circumstances occurring at any particular time. A defender will instinctively punch when behind. A forward will lead or stay back depending on where the footie. Go long or short, kick or handball etc. Even with the robots playing today they still have that basic innate response. Folou’s innate wiring will be to take on a tackler, sidestep a tackler, not expect to be tackled from behind, throw rather than handpass and hang out on the wing bludging. And not kick it because he can’t.
Pro – Blistering Speed
Con – not a great engine, which can be developed I know, but unlikely to increase to the point of being able to play anywhere other than deep forward or defence. Which brings me to my final point. Where do you play him?
Can’t play down back because of the risk he presents because of skill errors and lack of tactical knowledge
Can’t play in the midfield because of his physical limitations cardiovascular wise and lack of tactical knowledge
Can’t play up forward because HE CAN’T KICK
Over to you Almanacers

About Tony Robb

A life long Blues supporter of 49 years who has seen some light at the end of the tunnel that isn't Mick Malthouse driving a train.


  1. Pro – Jimmy Stynes of course!

    Con – every other failure TC has hyped up and then discarded and rewritten history…
    who was that American he pumped for a while?

    + Tommy Williams!

  2. Tony Robb says

    Jimmy Stynes was of stock that science is yet to discover. Was it 147 games straight? Amazing and according to the Melbourne medicos, the most incredible powers of recovery ever seen. I sincerely hope that trend continues. Was Jimmy’s stuff up in the prelim against the Hawks a sign of innate decison making or just bad luck. Big conseqeunce
    My point about innate respone gets seen out every time Setanta gets the ball. He may as well post a twitter entry of his intentions such is his telegramming of intend the Hawks v Blues game being the perfect example. And he has been at it for 6 yrs. The Hawks seem to be a common denominator here. Kick em out the world’s an oyster. But what about Israel

  3. Pamela Sherpa says

    This issue is certainly ruffling feathers . It’s all brilliant publicity for the cause. The fact that players from other codes want to try out game is fantastic. How many AFL players are going the other way? Go Sheeds, recruit for all you are worth. If there is a war to be won out there, Aussie Rules is on the front foot.

  4. Ian Syson says

    Pamela, how many rugby league players would want to try out your game if they were being offered realistic salaries?

    Also, are you happy for relations between codes to be conducted as if it were a war? Why is is that predatory/aggressive behaviour that would be illegal/unethical within footy is fine when conducted across codes?

    Here’s the intro of a piece I’ve submitted to the Age (which I don’t think will get a run btw):

    ///While the AFL is sitting smugly in the glow of all of the publicity surrounding the defection of Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau, a dilemma may not be far off. If the players fail to make the grade, the ploy will be seen simply as a cynical exercise in attention seeking. But that is not the worst that could happen.

    Their success might prove an even greater problem because it would raise the suggestion that Australian rules football is not that hard to play and that any developed athlete could learn to play the code with relative ease. Footy might then be painted as a fall-back sport for athletes who don’t make the grade elsewhere. It could also create a further disconnection between the game’s grass roots and the elite level. Why should a boy play his heart out for a club, rising through the pathways and representative football, struggling in second tier footy hoping for a breakthrough when ‘elite’ athletes from other codes and sports are waltzing in through the side door and getting paid squillions in the process? . . .///

  5. Pamela Sherpa says

    Well Ian it sounds like a war when you listen to the head honchos of the different sporting bodies . That is the impression they create. It’s a battle for the support of players and spectators – and what is wrong with that? I don’t know why people are getting so seriously upset about the whole money thing. Football is a business now whether we like it or not. Does it matter what code or country players are coming from? Do other businesses head hunt for people by offering them huge salaries? Do they always end up being the best people for the job? Is it fair ? Maybe not, but that is life.
    Obviously offering huge money to untried talent is a gamble and some say a publicity stunt but the AFL has the money and they will spend whatever it takes to push the code in other states. What law is going to stop them?
    Why shouldn’t athletes be able to make a career change just like others do in the work force?
    The football world is very inconsistent when it comes to money and loyalty.

  6. Ian Syson says

    Pamela. Fair enough: it’s a war. But what does that make me: a collaborator or a terrorist?

  7. Richard Naco says

    Although I have major doubts that Israel Folau will ever amount to much of an Aussie Rules footballer (and yes, I believe the pays he and Hunt are collecting are obscenely way out of whack to their abilities), I must confess toderiving an enormous degree of pure pleasure from the endless wailing, gnashing of teeth & general all round bleating of the thugby leaguie types. Russell Fairfax’s inane & borderline demented editorialising on Fox Sports news when the story broke was a blight on his own game (and we’re not talking Malcolm here), & Roy Master’s next appearance on The Offsiders should be pure curmudgeoning gold.

    “Rusty” and his peers seem to forget how ruthlessly & brutally his cherished sport plundered thugby union back in the good ole daze of the seventies & eighties, with Fairfax himself one who effortlessly abandoned his previous code (in 1974, after 8 games as a ‘Wallaby’). And of course, a plethora of players – past (Laurie Daley) or present (Nathan Hindmarsh) – are once more trotting out stories of how they had been enticed by AFL “scouts” (but not Akela?) to switch, but had stayed true because “rugby league is in [their] blood” (so is malaria, so being in one’s blood can be of dubious benefit). Hindmarsh hinting that he may take up AFL after his thugby league career peters out is more pure gold. So yes, it’s sickenly sweet to see the biter getting bitten.

    But when these converts step on to the Big Stage, they are going to be completely blown away by more developed opponents out to prove a major point re cost comparison, so that in four years’ time both will once more have returned to their original sport, because after all, it’s “in their blood” (read: “weren’t skilled, smart or courageous enough to play anything other than league”, like so many before them).

    So, is it worth the ridiculous salary? Folau (ignoring the fact that he can’t kick) is hardly Mr Charisma, and Hunt’s recent sound bytes have shown him up as prickly and churlish, and not exactly comfortable in his allotted role of enticing the followers of his former sport across into the cleansing light of AFL obsession. I have significant doubts, and I do worry about the erosion of faith between the AFL & the vast majority of players that must come back to haunt those who run our sport. If I was setting up a club, I’d certainly be spending my money on players with more established skills instead of splashing the big cash on fly by night publicity stunts. (Let alone Gary Ablett.)

    (I feel compelled to also point out that during my time as a very average, if not generally underperforming basketball coach, I was approached by AFL scouts to take over from Bomber Thompson at Geelong …

    … in my dreams.)

  8. John Butler says

    Richard, you make a very good point in highlighting that the AFL is allowing its sanctioned expansion teams to undertake the very inflationary and predatory practises that they have generally railed against in other contexts.

    To return to Folou and Hunt. Tony, you make a fair point about how the perceptions of AFL might change if they succeed. But there’s a fair chance they’ll be nothing more than journeymen. Since they are supposed to represent the elite of League athletes, there might be considerable propaganda value if they don’t thrive, once they have served the purpose of publicity.

    Pamela, you’re right that the administrators of the various codes treat their competition as a war. But is it a necessary war? The various codes all seem to be attracting sufficient money at present. Do they really need to kill or be killed to prosper? Is this more about the vanities of administrators than needs?

  9. ref #2 – Tony, my naming of Stynes was meant to highlight him as exceptional. His success doesn’t prove anything for anyone else.
    Pam, I am very uncomfortable with the “war”, its repercussions for Australian sport, and don’t start me on Sheedy.

  10. Ian Syson says

    Crio, I agree. List the successful football code swappers and it’s a tiny list.

    If you exclude those who have gone from Gaelic to footy, from league to union (or vice versa) or kickers into American football then the list is almost non-existent. The skills for which Folau and Hunt are lauded in league are either useless or illegal in footy.

    As for the war bizzo: I prefer Boy George’s line:

  11. Tony Robb says

    John, I didn’t actually make a point about perceptions. Well I think I didn’t. I firmly believe that Folau will never play a senior game other than a possible one off media managed circus and only IF the team is going shite. Most likely the same with Hunt.
    OI have only seen one player who has been able to play both codes at the elite level and that was Greg Brentnall who my father coached at the Wagga Tigers. We was offered a contract to play with either Sth Melbourne or Canterbury chosing the latter. He introduced the drop punt to league as well as cross field passes to the opposite winger. ant that was 35 yrs ago. Long time between drinks for the league converts.
    Wagga being somewhat of a border line between NSW and VIC codes produces many champion sports people, per head of population, because of this greater exposure to sports rather than single code dominant Melbourne or Brisbane

  12. Tony Robb says

    good point about media presence. Both rather average for different reason but hared to asee the GWS based an ad campaign with Folau as the mouth piece. Hardly an inspiration at school clinics either when kids want him to autograph a Bronco or Storm jumper.
    Keep the dream alive with the Cats job. Bomber is looking shakey lol

  13. Ian Syson says

    Laurie Daley said he had opportunities to go to footy during the Super League ‘War’. I remember Brentnall and yes his kicking was effective. Mike Eden also went to rugby league from soccer. He kicked conversations with either foot depending upon which side of the field he was on.

    This is what K Hunt (post-cash) had to say about code hopping in 2009. Asked by Mark McLure on ABC Radio Grandstand (July 31, 2009) whether he felt there were other players in Rugby League who could make the shift, Hunt replied: “Oh mate, there’s a lot of names that come to mind but I guess the obvious ones would be Billy Slater . . . down in Melbourne . . . well Greg Inglis . . . I mean these guys are natural athletes, they can do what they want. They could go and play basketball or play soccer if they put their minds to it, they’ve got that much ability.” Presumably Folou was also one of those on his mind.

    This is what K Hunt had to say (pre-cash) about code hopping in 2008: “Basketball’s my game. And soccer. I’ve been watching a lot of Manchester United. Cristiano Ronaldo is amazing. Amazing. I just enjoy watching the Premier League. I admire the skill those guys have. Their vision and touch. It’s awesome to watch. I wish I had the skill to play soccer. I’d be in England playing there. Or basketball in America . . . But I never had to decide. I was born a rugby league player.”

  14. John Butler says


    My mistake. I was talking about Ian’s point in his comment.

    That’ll teach me to try and sound coherent before 9 AM. :)

  15. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Ian, the bottom line is: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

  16. haiku bob says


    I prefer the other obvious take on this, that is, Aussie Rules is played by natural athletes and not thugs.

    Aussie Rules = The Beautiful Game.


  17. Ian Syson says

    Bob. Not sure where to go with that one.

    I thought you might have spotted the concrete poem in Phil’s post.

  18. Phil, it’s more than dollars. I reckon the bigwigs have already got their money’s worth in advertising. The gnashing of teeth in RL heartland and newspaper space is overwhelming.

    I hope the new boys go all right. If for no other reason than they could encourage RL youth to consider the switch if/when they hit the realisation that they are playing a game for those who like watching people run into each other pointlessly for 98% of the game time.

    Money is a big partof it too. Hopefully, there will be a windfall for all players from the next TV rights deal…

  19. Pamela Sherpa says

    The competition between codes will always be seen as a sporting war of sorts. I don’t see anything unhealty about that.It keeps everybody on their toes doesn’t it? One reason I think the NRL are panicking a bit is because they are less organised administratively and the AFL as a professional organisation is showing them up. The rugby players might also be a bit nervous after the Storm scandal and may have lost a ittle faith in those running their game. Those NRL players looking for new sporting homes might just be thinking ahead. As for the big money they are being offered? Well, I’d be happy to make a fool of myself for that much.

  20. Ian Syson says

    Here’s an interesting snippet from the Brisbane Courier in 1932:


    E. Hall, the Windsor Australian Rules player, who was reported to have Joined up with the Coorparoo Rugby League Club, has decided to remain in the Australian Game. He appeared for Windsor at Perry Park on Saturday afternoon, and after the game stated that he had re- considered his decision. As he owed so much to the Australian game he would remain in it.

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