Dreadful news for all misguided AFL tragics yesterday with the news that Israel Folau is fleeing the Greater Western Sydney Giants and returning to rugby league. AFL experts are lining up to say ‘I told you so’. In The Australian, for example, Patrick Smith wrote that ‘The great coach Kevin Sheedy was reduced to admiring his ability to punch the ball’ … but there are statues and monuments all over Carlton to Stephen Silvagni’s ability to punch the ball.
Anyway, I still think the nay-sayers were too invested in wanting the interloper to fail … so that they could preserve the idea that true footy greatness comes from learning to handball before you can crawl. Back in May I wrote an open letter to Israel Folau in my ‘Sort of but not exactly’ column that appears in The Melbourne Review: you can read it here. I stand by everything I wrote, except of course the fact that GWS wouldn’t win a game in 2012 (and for the record, I came stone cold last in the University of Adelaide Press footy tips, despite – or probably because – being the only one of us to check the team sheets at 6pm every Thursday). I still think Folau would have made it had he been interested enough to bother to carry on. I might be the only one, but I’ll miss him and I’ll dream of what might have been.