The Parramatta Eels and the NRL have announced on Friday that Israel Folau will not play rugby league next season after the cross-code star advised the club that he has taken up a lucrative offer to play rugby union.
Folau, who announced on November 1 he was leaving AFL club the Greater Western Sydney Giants, had been involved in protracted negotiations with Parramatta and NRL to return to the code next season.
Fairfax Media understands that the NRL and Parramatta Eels had come to an agreement to fit Folau under the salary cap, but the player has opted to accept a more lucrative offer.
"This has come as something of a surprise to us today," Eels Chief Executive Mr Ken Edwards said in a stetement to the media. "Our offer to Israel was unconditional."
"We have worked closely with the NRL and have always been confident that salary cap issues would be resolved."
"It is disappointing that Izzie [Folau] at this stage has chosen to pursue another path but we’ve also been clear that we are about having players who are focussed on what we are trying to achieve as a club."
"It is why we had previously ruled out short term appearances with other codes. We are comfortable with our current playing roster ahead of the 2013 season."
NRL interim chief executive Shane Mattiske said he had met Folau to address contract issues.
"We worked in good faith with the club to ensure that Israel’s contract could be met within the [salary] cap and it is unfortunate that he has elected to pursue another path," said Mattiske.
"It would have been nice to see Israel back in the NRL because it is the game he is most suited to and the one that I think would have given him the biggest challenge in facing the best athletes in the most exciting contests week in and week out."
"Ultimately though it is his choice and we have to respect that. I think Parramatta has done everything possible and we have certainly worked closely with them in that process."