STATE of Origin football will not be the same for Goodna Eagles club members this year.
One of the Eagles’ greatest products, Israel Folau, is preparing to play in front of 20 people in a reserve grade AFL match instead of four million on Australia’s biggest sporting stage.
Folau, 22, played several seasons with the Eagles and even has a street in Goodna named after him.
Folau played in Queensland’s last three Origin series wins.
He was once the player every Goodna rugby league junior named as their favourite.
Now they can’t even watch Folau play sport of any kind as he runs around untelevised for Greater Western Sydney.
Ahead of tonight’s Origin opener, Eagles junior president Norma Kumar, a friend of the Folau family, said Origin had lost some if its lustre for Goodna league lovers.
“I wish he was out there playing for Queensland, but he wanted more money so what can you do?” Ms Kumar said.
“He has been fantastic for this club in the past but I have not heard from him in a while.”
Folau said last week he would be watching the Origin opener and wished the Queensland team all the best.
“We still get kids who show up to play because Israel told them to come to the Eagles,” Ms Kumar said.
“His family are still involved with the club and some of his cousins are playing for us now.
“I hope he comes back to the game.
"I think he will one day.”
The Eagles’ club was destroyed in January’s flood and has only been rebuilt this month.
The club has produced some of rugby league’s brightest stars including Australia’s greatest front rower Noel Kelly, who also has a street in the suburb named after him – Noel Kelly Drive.
Folau’s record with the Eagles was impressive, winning three straight premierships alongside current Sydney Roosters forward Lama Tasi.
Folau joined the Greater Western Sydney team last year on a three-year, $4.2 million deal.
It was hoped his signature would see an increase in Polynesian kids playing AFL.
But Ms Kumar said it was not the case.
“More than 70% of our junior players are of Pacific Island background and they are not interested,” she said.
“We have 300 juniors at the club now.
"Last year we had 200 plus.”