Long-Term Contract for Folau

Whilst Rugby Australia itself is habitually running at a financial loss and is desperately seeking new sources of income, they continue to throw the big bucks at their star players, a system which has already caused some controversy lower down the pecking order. Whilst some the big names are secured for Australian rugby, with lucrative contracts that will ensure a better class of retirement village later in life, the development of the game down at the grass roots level is struggling to survive as the national body neglects investment in development resources.

Famous old clubs are closing and the game is withering at the junior levels. Yet the top players are paid eye-wateringly large amounts of money to stay in Australia.

We have already learned of Michael Hooper’s huge 5-year contract with the ARU worth A$6 Million, or A$1,2 Million per year.

Now we have learned of a new four-year deal with Rugby Australia for Israel Folau. A deal that will keep him in Australia and with the Waratahs until 2022.

The monetary value of the deal has not yet been made public, but it is sure to be a very generous deal for the multi-talented Folau. He was already one of the top-three best paid players in Australia and the world, earning some A$2,5 Million per year, albeit on a shorter-term contract than those of some of his peers. During the negotiations for this new contract it was revealed that he was considering offers from overseas, as well as thinking about changing playing codes to either league or back to Aussie Rules football. Of course, the rumours of overseas offers etc may just have been bargaining chips to force the hand of Australian Rugby, but there can be no doubt that the new deal will involve multiple millions of dollars.

The new deal has been signed despite a season of controversy when Folau’s future in rugby looked rocky at times after he posted a series of controversial homophobic tweets.

The 29-year-old was hauled into the Rugby Australia offices in April and cautioned over his social media use by Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle and New South Wales Rugby CEO Andrew Hore.

At the time, Folau told Players’ Voice he was prepared to quit rugby union altogether if it came to that.

“I told Raelene if she felt the situation had become untenable – that I was hurting Rugby Australia, its sponsors and the Australian rugby community to such a degree that things couldn’t be worked through – I would walk away from my contract, immediately,” he said at the time.

Folau somehow escaped sanction for his comments – paving the way for the relationship to be “repaired” and a new deal to be signed.

Folau’s new deal is the longest he has had in rugby and follows a string of longer-term deals being struck by Rugby Australia in recent months. Folau is understood to have pushed for a long-term deal in Australia, and Rugby Australia and the New South Wales Waratahs agreed despite the four-year extension taking him through to the age of 34.

Signing through to the end of 2022 still leaves Folau a year shy of the Rugby World Cup in France which seems to be a deliberate tactic to allow for a fresh, and potentially even more lucrative, contract to take him through to the end of the World Cup.

Rugby Australia seems set on signing longer term contracts than they have entertained in the past. Most of the Australian side have contracts expiring at the end of the World Cup season next year, and it is evident that the national body wants to retain the services of some of the players they consider key to the future of the game in Australia.

As mentioned earlier, Michael Hooper has already signed a five-year deal to keep him in Australia through to 2023. Prop forward Allan Alaalatoa is also close to securing a four-year contract extension with one year left on his current contract.

The signing of Israel Folau to a four-year contract continues this trend.

Flyhalf Bernard Foley is the exception to that rule, having been signed on for just one more year last week.