Wallabies star fullback Israel Folau says he learnt his aerial skills from Carlton Blues AFL stars.In the shadows of the MCG, Wallaby Israel Folau says his early days training in the AFL heartland gave him the skills to become one the world’s best rugby union fullbacks.
Folau and the Wallabies have been given the keys to Collingwood’s training facilities while they prepare for Saturday’s second Test against Ireland at Melbourne’s AAMI Park.
But it was across town with the Magpies’ arch-rivals Carlton, when Folau, as a young Melbourne Storm rugby league player honed his remarkable aerial talents.
The Storm shared Carlton’s facilities and Folau said he learnt from the Blues players.
“That’s where I really learnt that skill,” Folau told AAP.
“We used to do a lot of kick-catch work with Carlton, and it really taught us some great skills catching above our heads, off our chest.
“Those things I’ve carried throughout my career and I’m really thankful I got the opportunity to learn that.”
Catching securely with two hands above his head sets Folau apart from many other rugby players, but he says many others are now mastering the skill.
“It something for me as a strength that I like to obviously use at every opportunity I get, and we’ve got some great guys who can put the kicks on point which makes it a lot easier for me to catch it.”
But Folau said it was actually the Storm’s fullback Billy Slater, also known for high-ball grabs, who he most looked up to.
“Billy Slater was one I used to see do extras after training and his catching technique was unreal, so I really looked up to him and followed.
“I wanted to learn that skill because of guys like him.”
As well as the risk of a turnover, there’s a danger of falling heavily from such a great height.
But Folau has never thought about the threat of injury.
“I don’t think about the danger – it’s part of my role and when my opportunity presents itself, I’m always looking get up.
“A lot of people ask me if I’m scared I’m going to land on my head but I’ve got eyes on the ball and no regard for the things around me, so it’s something I don’t even think about.”
Australian Associated Press