Controversial ex-Wallabies star Israel Folau announces return to Australian rugby league
An unapologetic Israel Folau says he has no regrets about his controversial religious views as he aims to resurrect his sporting career via a Gold Coast rugby league club.
The code-hopping footballer announced on Friday he had signed a deal to play the remainder of the season with Southport Tigers in Gold Coast’s A-Grade competition.
If the Queensland Rugby League approves Folau’s registration it would be the first time since 2010 the former Queensland State of Origin and Australia representative had played rugby league in Australia.
After 91 NRL appearances for Brisbane and Melbourne, Folau made a switch to AFL expansion team GWS in 2011-12.
He then joined rugby union in 2013 and made 73 test appearances for the Wallabies before his contract was terminated by Rugby Australia in 2019 after saying “hell awaits” gay people in a social media post.
“I tell you what I do stand for. As a Christian, I stand by the Bible and what the Bible says, every written word that’s written in that book, I stand by that and that’s all I’ll say about that,” Folau said about his social media posts.
“I’m just happy to get back on the field and play … at the moment I’m just excited about joining Southport and playing alongside my brothers, that’s something I’ve never done in my career.”
Folau’s latest move has the backing of mining magnate and former politician Clive Palmer, who is the patron of the club.
His mining company Mineralogy is sponsoring Folau’s move and the outspoken businessman is expecting the QRL to approve Folau’s registration in time for a clash with Burleigh Bears on May 29.
“I’ll be very surprised if he’s not registered, and I certainly would support him 100 per cent with all the funds, all the resources, all the skill that I possess to ensure that he’s treated fairly, like all Australians,” Palmer said, promising he’d take legal action if Folau’s registration is knocked back.
“Make no mistake about that. My commitment to Israel Folau to ensure that he can play football again is rock solid.
“I would pledge every cent, every dollar, and every waking moment of my time to ensure that he takes the field again.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) May 20, 2021
Two of Folau’s brothers, John and Eni, already play for the Tigers and Palmer says it was their suggestion which opened the door to the 32-year-old’s decision.
Folau refused to speculate on whether his overall ambition was to return to the NRL, with St George Illawarra having already aborted a bid to sign him after an intense public backlash.
After reaching a legal settlement with Rugby Australia following his sacking, Folau joined French-based Super League club Catalans.
Palmer said any claim to compensation from Catalans was void as they had failed to honour the terms of Folau’s contract with the club.
Palmer also dismissed concern Folau ‘s signing would bring scorn to Southport.
“Let’s go to the game. Let’s see what the fans say,” he said.
“Bring the cameras down, it will be a fantastic time …. everyone will be happy, hopefully, except the Burleigh Bears because we’re going to beat them.”
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