LEIGH MATTHEWS has labelled talk of luring Israel Folau to the AFL on a million-dollar-a-year contract as ”obscene” and disrespectful to other potential young recruits.Folau became a free agent on Friday after declining to renew his contract with the Brisbane Broncos. The 21-year-old has been closely linked with new Super 15 franchise the Melbourne Rebels, but is understood to also be weighing up an offer from Team GWS.Matthews, a Hall of Fame legend and four-time premiership coach, yesterday acknowledged the value of having a player with Folau’s profile to market a new AFL team, but said it was ”ridiculous” to pay him anywhere near the money earned by the best players in the competition.”It’s disrespectful to all the kids who play footy as teenagers,” he said on 3AW.”We ask them to operate under a salary cap [and] there’s no free agency, so you can’t go to a different employer if you want to – then you see someone from outside the sport [who has] never kicked an AFL football being offered the same money as Jonathan Brown and Chris Judd.”He said the league provides ”all the money for all the AFL initiatives around Australia” and allowing a player without experience to join the ranks of the AFL on such a wage would be in conflict with those initiatives.”We might as well recruit all around the world now because you don’t have to know anything about the game.”Poaching someone from another sport by offering them a Godfather million-dollar offer – to me, it’s embarrassing.”Recently retired Richmond star Matthew Richardson, who was on yesterday’s pre-game talk show with Matthews, said Folau would not be able to make the transition from the NRL to the AFL.”He’s absolutely no chance of making it,” Richardson said.”I don’t think you can pick up the game at the age of 22 and suddenly go out and play AFL football.”GWS chief executive Dale Holmes told The Sun-Herald yesterday the new club (under ex-Essendon coach Kevin Sheedy’s on-field leadership) was not going to comment on speculation about Folau.
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