HE may have been a $1million-a-year marketing tool in the AFL, but the NSW Waratahs say they have signed Israel Folau as a player, not a drawcard.
After yesterday’s training session at No.2 Sportsground, Waratahs coach Michael Cheika declined media requests to interview Folau, saying he did not want to ‘‘prostitute’’ the code-hopping superstar.
‘‘The media hype is OK because he’s obviously a popular player,’’ Cheika said.
‘‘It can be a little bit challenging sometimes trying to fit it in, with every media organisation wanting to talk to him all the time.’’
But Cheika dismissed the theory that Folau alone would revitalise interest in the Waratahs, who won only four of 16 games last Super Rugby season and were criticised for their pedestrian attack.
‘‘I’m hoping the team will be the drawcard,’’ he said.
‘‘He’ll be a part of that team; that’s the way I like to think.
‘‘One thing I will tell you, he’s not been brought on board for a gimmick. He’s a serious player. We had an opportunity left open, we had a place in the side, and when it all worked out it was done on the fact that he could add a lot to our football roster.’’
While Cheika felt Folau deserved some respite from the barrage of media attention he had attracted since joining the Waratahs three weeks ago, he had no qualms about predicting he was capable of becoming a dual international as early as next season.
‘‘If he’s got the ambition, which it sounds like to me he does, and with some good coaching from us and his teammates helping him out, then nothing is impossible.