Former Wallaby Israel Folau is reportedly close to sealing a comeback to the NRL after the St George Illawarra Dragons submitted an application to the league to sign the cross-code star.
The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting the Dragons board has approved the decision to attempt to sign Folau on a two-year deal, and that the NRL will “consider the application”.
Folau was sacked by Rugby Australia in 2019 following a number of anti-gay social media posts. The two-time John Eales medallist took RA to court for what he claimed was an unlawful dismissal, and an out-of-court settlement which saw each party apologise to the other was reached.
Folau had been set to play in the UK’s Super League with Catalans Dragons this year, only to return to Australia for the birth of his first child.
Prior to switching to the 15-player code, Folau made his name in the NRL, first with the Melbourne Storm then the Brisbane Broncos, and made 13 representative appearances with the Maroons and Kangaroos.
A return to the competition where he burst onto the scene would likely see Folau line up in the centres for St George.
However, the proposed deal still requires approval from the NRL, something that is far from guaranteed under Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys.
When appointed as head of the ARLC in late 2019, V’landys was dismissive of Folau’s chances of returning to the NRL.
“The game is inclusive. Israel’s comments are not inclusive. When I was a kid and kids used to get bashed up because they were different, I used to go and defend them. And a lot of them, it’s because their role models or their peers made them that way,” he said at the time.
“I have no tolerance for people that put other people’s lives [at risk] or [commit] violence. It’s a big statement to make. With due respect to Israel, what he says, young kids listen to. He is a role model. They act on it. And when you’re a kid at school and you get bashed up because you’re different, I don’t think that’s a good thing…
“I came out here as a four-year-old migrant, stayed in Wollongong and went to school and I was very isolated. Didn’t know anyone, couldn’t speak any English.
“The only way that I was able to be a part of the community was to play rugby league and that’s the sole reason I’m on this commission, is I want to repay the debt that rugby league gave me in my life because without rugby league, I could be in jail.
“I could be anywhere because it set my path in life forward because I was accepted and included as an Australian.
“I think we need to be more inclusive and I think the greatest asset our game has is it is very inclusive.”