BRISBANE will set their sights on luring one of the Storm’s four stars north if Broncos centre Israel Folau signs today for Super rugby franchise Melbourne Rebels.The Rebels are almost certain to today announce Folau as their latest signing, with the 21-year-old to tell his NRL club Brisbane he will not be triggering a two-year option to remain in Queensland. His offer to switch codes is about $600,000 a season, not the $1 million figure reported this week, and includes about $100,000 in top-up funding from the Australian Rugby Union.However, Folau’s decision to become the latest in a succession of high-profile converts to the 15-a-side game is likely to bring grave ramifications for his representative aspirations this season, with Australian and Queensland officials last night indicating he would be overlooked for selection for the May 7 Test against New Zealand and then the State of Origin series if he agrees to join the Rebels. It would also leave the Broncos, already operating about $300,000 under the salary cap due to the departures of Joel Clinton (to England) and PJ Marsh, who was forced into premature retirement last month by a neck injury, on the hunt for a replacement with plenty to spend.Brisbane continue to negotiate with former Broncos Petero Civoniceva and Ben Hannant but chief executive Bruno Cullen conceded yesterday they would be on the look-out for another star if Folau walked. Storm quartet Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Greg Inglis and Cooper Cronk would be on their list, with at least one likely to leave Melbourne in the wake of the salary cap fiasco.”Israel going would mean we’re perhaps one marquee player short,” Cullen said. ”But we wouldn’t be acting like vultures about it. We’d give plenty of space to think about what they’re going to do and when they’ve done that we certainly might be in the market for one of them. Melbourne players are generally all signed to contracts, though. Everyone is forgetting that – no one is allowed to talk to them before November this year.”Cullen said he anticipated a final decision by Folau today. He has been told the Rebels’ total offer to Folau exceeds $1m.”It’s just a matter of him saying yes or no to the option,” he said. ”When someone gets thrown that amount of money at them it has to be a tough decision to say no. But … he’s very positive about liking league and wanting to play for the Broncos.”Brisbane captain Darren Lockyer said a Storm player would be an ideal replacement in a back line that also lost Karmichael Hunt last year. ”If Israel does leave, there’ll be some money to go and buy someone,” Lockyer said. ”A lot of those Storm boys are from Brisbane.”The Rebels’ interest in Folau was revealed by the Herald on March 18. The franchise, until last week run by ex-Storm chief Brian Waldron, has secured an appealing roster including England’s Danny Cipriani and former Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock.Folau’s decision is understood to be based around lifestyle as much as money. The Herald believes he stands to earn just over $600,000 a season with the Rebels, with the ARU providing $100,000 to top up a base salary of $140,000. The rest of his income would comprise third-party payments, which are understood to total about $250,000, and match payments of $6000 for every Super 15 game.He could also earn $12,000 per Test if selected by the Wallabies.
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