Disgraced rugby player Israel Folau in talks over possible return to Australia league

Israel Folau

The disgraced anti-gay rugby player Israel Folau is in talks to return to the NRL with a two-year deal for an Australian team, St George Illawarra Dragons.

Folau, who was sacked from the New South Wales Waratahs and Australia’s national team last year after claiming that “hell awaits” gay people, has spent the last year in France playing for the Catalans Dragons.

He could soon be back in his home country by the end of the 2020 Super League season after he reportedly reached an agreement with St George Illawarra Dragons.

St George are understood to have been speaking with the 31-year-old since before Christmas, seemingly unconcerned by Folau’s problematic reputation.

“We’re definitely interested and we’re talking to Israel,” St George chief executive Ryan Webb told NRL’s official website. “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.”

But it’s not a done deal yet, as seven members of the Australian Rugby League Commission must first decide whether to allow Folau’s return to the NRL. The commission previously blocked an attempted return as they deemed him to have failed to meet the league’s “inclusiveness culture”.

Rather than backing away from his anti-LGBT+ beliefs, Folau has repeatedly reasserted them as he blames the devil for transgender children and claims that bushfires are “God’s judgment” for same-sex marriage.

He was thrown a lifeline last year when the Catalans Dragons agreed to give him “a new opportunity to shine on the pitch” in spite of his extreme views.

The Rugby Football League reluctantly agreed to register Israel Folau after receiving assurances from both the player and the Catalans over his future behaviour.

He’ll be forced to abide by the same rules if he wants to return to Australia, as St George’s proposal to the NRL contains strict stipulations around public and social media comments.

Pride in Sport, an organisation that encourages inclusivity in Australian clubs, said they would expect St George to have a zero-tolerance policy on discrimination if Folau joins.

“NRL is a code that prides itself as being a sport for everyone with strong values of diversity and inclusion,” co-founder Andrew Purchas said in a statement seen by Sky Sports.

“History has shown Folau’s repeated failures to abide by sporting inclusion policies despite assurances.”