I’m not sure why, but there’s been a bunch of articles on Israel Folau recently and all within the same vein: ‘Folau needs time to develop: Silvagni‘ – AFL.com, Paul Daffey. ‘Folau deserves a real chance with GWS‘ – The Roar, Myles. ‘Folau still learning: Sheedy‘ – The Roar, Rob Forsaith.
I am going to do my best to leave my personal feelings out of this because I have so, SO many feelings. I could create a website about them. But this is the summary of the articles: Folau is playing poorly so everyone is passing judgement, but the Giants and Kevin Sheedy (good man, that Sheedy bloke) stand behind him. If nothing else, it’s a heartwarming story about teamwork.
But facts are facts. And the fact is, Izzy is being paid a lot to do very little. So it’s not his stats that are the problem (they are A problem, not THE problem), it’s how much GWS is paying for them.
For those of you who don’t know, Folau was a professional rugby player who traded Broncos for Giants when he left Brisbane to join GWS in its first year. Although AFL salaries are not made public, he reportedly signed a deal worth $6 million over 4 years ($1.5 million per year). That’s a fair bit of coin, especially considering the average player salary is around $220,000.
There’s a lot of discussion in sport about how to know what a player is worth (as I’ve previously discussed, the NBL solves this problem through its Player Points System) and how to monetize their contribution. This is where sports economics comes into play – I swear I will do my best to make this as clear and as non-economics-y as possible.
Let’s start with something basic: salaries.
The 2011 CBA states that the base salary (with includes superannuation and pre-season matches) of a first year player, drafted in the first round is $59,200 with $2,900 additional for every senior match played. Folau is different because he qualifies for the AFL’s elite athlete rules, but let’s evaluate him as a first year player, first round draft pick. If he were a typical first year player, he would have made $99,800 this season (he might have also received a $8,100 bonus, but let’s ignore that for now) – yet, his contract gives him more than 15 times that amount. If you look at it the other way around, you realize GWS is paying him more than $100,000 per game. Given his on-field performance the argument seems pretty weak.
It gets even weaker when you compare him to his teammates. For kicks, let’s compare his stats and salary to the current NAB Rising Star Noms from GWS:
Note: These are totals, not averages.
Israel Folau – 12 games, 1 goal, 7 behinds (thirteen points total), 20 marks, 37 handballs, 61 hitouts. Rumored salary: $1,500,000 (what his salary would have been as a first year player: $99,800.)
Jeremy Cameron – 16 games, 29 goals, 15 behinds (189 points), 80 marks, 160 disposals. Estimated salary: $105,600
Tomas Bugg – 17 games, 306 disposals, 55 tackles, 69 marks, 39 points total. Estimated Salary: $108, 500
Stephen Coniglio – 12 games, 17 points, 258 disposals, 58 marks, 31 tackles. Estimated Salary: $99,800
Dylan Sheil – 12 games, 34 points, 228 disposals, 39 marks, 46 tackles. Estimated salary: $99,800
Toby Greene – 17 games, 69 marks, 57 tackles, 50 points, 467 disposals. Estimated salary: $108,500
Adam Treloar – 16 games, 59 points, 73 marks, 42 tackles, 337 disposals. Estimated salary: $105,600
Devon Smith – 18 games, 82 tackles, 60 marks, 301 disposals, 10 goals, 18 behinds (78 points). Estimated salary: $111,400
These statistics show that Folau is being paid much more than his on-field worth. GWS could have gotten 12 more Jeremy Camerons for the price of Izzy! Okay, okay, I’ll try and ease up on the Jezza-Love…but you can see why people are questioning the decision to spend so much on him. Although Folau is a great athlete, he doesn’t know enough about the game to be a great player yet and while he might need a few years to reach his full potential, these other, younger boys have realized their potential straight away… and it didn’t cost the team $6 million dollars.
I’ll spare you the rest and instead, write up a part 2 to this series… stay tuned 🙂 Oh, and if you think this is all wrong, please read my disclaimer.
(EDIT: Read part two here)