Dragons perfect for Folau redemption: Bird

Laine Clark
Israel Folau's rugby league return with France-based Catalans has caused controversy

Catalans assistant Greg Bird believes Israel Folau can earn redemption at the Super League club and critics will forget about the dual international's controversial past after a few wins.

The French club caused a furore when they ignored the Super League and the Rugby Football League's pleas by signing Folau on a one-year deal after he was sacked by Rugby Australia for posting homophobic comments on social media.

But after reviving his own strife-dogged playing career at Catalans, ex-NRL star Bird said the Dragons offered the "perfect environment" for Folau to do the same.

"There's no better place to start again," Bird told League Express.

"The beauty of playing here in France is that you're out of the bubble in Australia or the UK.

"It's the perfect environment for redemption and rehabilitation."

No stranger to controversy after twice linking with Catalans after off-field dramas at NRL clubs Cronulla (2008) and Gold Coast (2016), Bird said Folau should not be punished for his past.

"If you've done wrong you pay the price, but you cannot be punished every day for the rest of your life," he said.

"I can't speak for Israel and how he's going to approach things but I'm sure he'll do the same as I did, just getting out there on the football pitch and making whatever's happened in the past exactly that, make it history."

Super League clubs were livid over Folau's Catalans deal and voted at a meeting last week to implement measures that gave them more power to veto controversial signings in future.

Some of Catalans' rivals have organised LGBT celebrations at their home games when the Dragons visit.

But Bird - who took up a two-year Catalans coaching option after ending his second playing stint at the French club last season - believed critics would "soon forget" Folau's history once the Dragons started winning.

"When you start playing football every week pretty soon no-one cares what happened nine months ago," he said.

"Once we get a big crowd in here (in Perpignan)....and we get a few wins under our belt people will soon forget the back story."

Folau is yet to make his Super League debut after being left out of the squad to take on Wakefield on Monday (AEDT), which was called off due to safety concerns caused by Storm Ciara.

It remains to be seen if the ex-Wallabies and NRL star will play in their next home game against Castleford this weekend.

"We'll see how he reacts to training this coming week but we don't want to make any predictions on what the timescale might be for his first game," Catalans coach Steve McNamara told Mail on Sunday.