AFP
Wire Service
3 minute read
2 Feb 2021
10:05 am

Controversial Folau could return to Australia with NRL side

AFP

"We understand there will be a range of opinions in regards to this decision, but we believe he would be a good addition to our club."

Former Wallabies player Israel Folau may be back in the game should he join a Rugby League team in the coming weeks and months. Picture: AFP

A rugby league side is seeking to bring Israel Folau back to Australia, approaching the NRL for permission to sign the controversial star for the 2021 season.

Former rugby union international Folau, 31, was sacked by Rugby Australia in May 2019 for a homophobic social media post saying that “hell awaits” gay people and others he considers sinners.

A St George Illawarra Dragons spokesman said Tuesday the club was currently pursuing the former Wallaby.

“I can confirm that we have enquired about signing Israel Folau and that there is a process of consideration under way involving numerous stakeholders, including the NRL,” he told AFP.

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Australian media reports said the Dragons wanted to sign Folau on a two-year deal.

“We’re definitely interested and we’re talking to Israel,” St George Illawarra CEO Ryan Webb told NRL.com.

“Now we’re working with the NRL to allay any concerns on registering a contract for him.

“We understand there will be a range of opinions in regards to this decision, but we believe he would be a good addition to our club.”

No formal contract offer has been made but the club has reportedly submitted a formal request to the NRL for permission to sign Folau.

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said the governing body would follow “due process” and keep an “open mind” when considering Folau’s potential return.

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“Any decision that you make, you need to think about the fans, you need to think about your investors and sponsors, and all of that will be taken into account. But ultimately it’s the NRL’s decision,” he told NRL.com.

“What we intend to do is follow the process that is outlined in our rules and regulations and be very fair.”

The Australian Rugby League Commission has previously suggested it would not allow Folau to return to the league.

“The game is inclusive. Israel’s comments are not inclusive,” chairman Peter V’landys said in late 2019.

“I have no tolerance for people that put other people’s lives (at risk) or (commit) violence.”

Folau scored 37 tries in 73 rugby union Tests before being dumped by Australia in 2019.

He made his return to the 13-a-side code in February last year with the Catalan Dragons after a decade playing Australian Rules and rugby union.

He is still under contract with the French side for 2021 but reportedly returned to Australia recently after his wife gave birth to their first child.

The devout Christian won a multimillion-dollar settlement from Rugby Australia after challenging his dismissal under laws that disallow sackings because of a person’s religion.

He later sparked fresh outrage by suggesting destructive bushfires and drought ravaging Australia in late 2019 were “God’s judgement” for the legalisation of same-sex marriage and abortion.

Those remarks were condemned even by conservatives, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

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