Folau closes in on minor league return in Australia

·2-min read
Former Wallabies fullback Israel Folau is seeking a return to rugby league in Australia

Israel Folau's bid to end his sporting exile with a small-town Australian rugby league team received a boost Wednesday, but the former Wallabies star was also warned homophobic views were not welcome in the game.

The Queensland Rugby League said it was willing to let Folau play for community club Southport Tigers provided it received clearance from his previous team, Catalans Dragons in France.

The governing body said if that was granted, Folau could play and would have to abide by the league's rules, which included "a proud diversity and inclusion framework".

"The QRL acknowledge that previous social media comments made by Folau, whilst not a registered participant in rugby league at the time, do not align to the beliefs of the game, or the QRL," it said in a statement.

Rugby Australia sacked Folau in 2019 social media post saying that "hell awaits" gay people and others he considers sinners.

It sparked a long-running legal dispute that was eventually settled when RA made a multi-million dollar out-of-court payment.

His push to join Southport Tigers is being backed by mining billionaire Clive Palmer, who has threatened legal action against anyone who challenges the 32-year-old's right to play.

The QRL pointed out that it was a non-profit group set up to grow the game in Queensland state.

"The league is astounded that public commentary has included threats of protracted legal action should registration not be granted," it said.

Folau said last week that we was open to a return to the top-tier National Rugby League but the QRL statement said any registration it granted would be for playing at community level only.

The Australian Rugby League Commission has previously suggested it would not allow Folau to return to the league, with chairman Peter V'landys saying he wanted an inclusive game.

Folau was a star NRL player early in his career, then switched to rugby union after an unsuccessful stint playing Australian Rules.

He scored 37 tries in 73 rugby union Tests for the Wallabies before being dumped, then returned to league in February last year in France with the Catalans Dragons.

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