Israel Folau is one of the world’s best known rugby players and is one of only a handful of others to have played across the codes of rugby league, rugby union and Australian rules football. Israel Folau was inducted into the RugbyPass Hall of Fame in 2021.
Born in April 1989 to Tongan parents in Minto, New South Wales, Israel Folau grew up there and spent his late teens in Brisbane, Queensland. It was at school where he first played rugby league and was selected for the Australian Schoolboys team in 2006 after showing talent as a tough centre and as a wing. He was spotted by Melbourne Storm and soon made his professional debut aged 17 in the Australian 2007 NRL season.
Not only did he play every game in his first season, he was also the record youngest player at the time in the league and scored the most tries in a debut year. In the same year he was then called up into the Australia rugby league squad for a test game against New Zealand. This then saw him become the youngest player to represent the side. In 2008 he played in the Rugby League World Cup, making it to the final which the side lost 34 – 20 to New Zealand. After this he agreed to sign for Brisbane Broncos to play in the 2009 season.
After a prolific two seasons with the Broncos, Israel Folau made a surprising switch to Australian rules football with the Greater Western Sydney Giants in 2011, after a three-way bidding war between the association, rugby league and rugby union. This proved to be short-lived though and by December 2012 it was announced he was switching codes again to rugby union and would join the New South Wales Waratahs for the 2013 Super Rugby season.
It didn’t take long for Israel Folau to make a positive impression on the pitch and he was soon drafted for the Australia rugby union national side as a fullback to play against the British & Irish Lions in their 2013 tour of the country. He scored the first try of this game and went on to have a prolific international career for the Wallabies, playing in the 2015 Rugby World Cup and breaking a record in 2017 internationals for the most tries scored by an Australian in a calendar year.
In July 2015 he agreed to play for NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes in Japan’s Top League but never made an appearance due to injury and the side’s relegation. This meant Folau remained with the Waratahs until 2019, before his contract with the side and Rugby Australia was terminated following controversial posts he put on social media. Israel Folau has since returned to rugby league and most recently signed for Catalans Dragons where he remains as of 2021.