THE AFL is reported to be funding half of a $3 million contract offer to Brisbane rugby league star Israel Folau to persuade him to spearhead its expansion into western Sydney.The news comes as Essendon confirmed that AFL clubs would jump at the chance to snare Greg Inglis or Billy Slater in the wake of the Storm salary cap scandal.Folau, 21, who is today expected to confirm he will cut short his contract with the Broncos, was thought to be poised to sign a lucrative deal with the new Melbourne Rebels Super rugby franchise. But the AFL Footy Show last night reported Folau has an in-principle offer of $3 million over three years to join Team GWS instead, half of which would be funded by the AFL for marketing the game in the league stronghold.It was also reported the contract offer was triggered by an approach from Folau’s representatives, Titan Management Group, in the past two months because the former Melbourne Storm player was impressed about the luring of former Broncos teammate Karmichael Hunt from rugby league to AFL.Folau, who went to high school in Fairfield, was also said to have been tested for skills – such as kicking and marking – by AFL high performance coach Jason McCartney.Unlike Hunt, Folau has never played AFL before, although his 195-centimetre and 103-kilogram physique was said to have impressed AFL-GWS recruiters nonetheless. GWS coach Kevin Sheedy was also said to have spoken ”once or twice” to the potential recruit.Folau’s manager Isaac Moses could not be contacted last night to corroborate the offer, nor could AFL spokesman Patrick Keane. Calls to GWS chief executive Dale Holmes and Sheedy were not answered.Holmes did say earlier in the week: ”We just are not going to comment on any speculation – it’s not fair on the parties involved. We are just focused on the youth we need to bring into the club.”Broncos CEO Bruno Cullen was resigned to losing Folau. ”What I’m led to believe is there are two offers and they’re absolutely sensational,” Cullen said. ”If he stays we’ll be rejoicing, but that sort of money is tough to knock back.”While rugby union had been seen as the main threat to the Storm’s hopes of keeping Inglis, Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith in the NRL, Essendon boss Ian Robson said many AFL clubs would also be interested in them.”If you are asking me the question as to whether I would be interested in Greg Inglis, then the answer is yes,” Robson said. ”But I reckon you would get the same answer from just about every club in every sport in Australia, including basketball.”Of course I would be interested in Greg Inglis if he became available but I think there’d be a pretty long queue. I am sure there would be plenty of interest in Billy Slater, too. Who wouldn’t be interested in a fantastic athlete of their age and ability?”Robson said that Sheedy had previously stated that Inglis was the NRL player he believed was most capable of making the switch to AFL. But Robson denied having made any inquires about Inglis should he leave the Storm.Inglis said: ”At this point of time I know that I am staying at the club and at this point of time I know I am not going anywhere. I just want to stay in Melbourne.”
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