'Serious concerns': Major sponsor's role in Dragons' Israel Folau backflip

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·Sports Editor
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Israel Folau, pictured here in action for Catalans Dragons.
The Dragons' major sponsor reportedly expressed reservations about Israel Folau. Image: Getty

The Dragons’ major sponsor reportedly told the club it had reservations about the signing of Israel Folau before they aborted their pursuit of the controversial code-hopper.

The pursuit of the dual international was discussed at a general meeting on Wednesday night, with Dragons officials deciding they would not proceed with an official application process.

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That came just 48 hours after it emerged the club was on the cusp of bringing Folau back to the NRL.

On Friday, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that St George Bank - the club’s $1 million major sponsor - said they might have to reconsider their partnership with the Dragons if they went ahead and signed Folau.

According to the Herald, St George Bank expressed “serious concerns” to the Dragons.

The Herald reports that St George Bank - who have sponsored the Dragons for 40 years - didn’t issue the club an ultimatum but said they might reconsider their association with the Red V.

St George Bank executives reportedly referenced a quote from Qantas CEO Alan Joyce when Folau was on the verge of being sacked by Rugby Australia.

“We don’t sponsor something to get involved in controversy - that’s not part of the deal,” Joyce said in 2019 after Folau’s homophobic social media post.

Alan Joyce, pictured here during a news conference in Sydney in 2019.
Alan Joyce speaks during a news conference in Sydney in 2019. Image: Getty

St George Bank issued a statement saying it would honour the remainder of its contract, which did not expire until the end of 2021.

“The selection of players is the responsibility of the St George Illawarra Dragons and the NRL,” a St George Bank spokeswoman said.

“St George Bank plays no role in the selection of players and we don’t comment on individuals.

“As a major employer with a large customer base, St George Bank upholds an inclusive environment that does not discriminate on the basis of gender, ethnicity or sexuality.

“These values align with the NRL’s own commitment to respecting and celebrating diversity.”

Fellow sponsors TripADeal had confirmed it would stick by the Dragons at the time.

League great’s fury over Dragons’ Folau ‘trainwreck’

On Thursday Mark Geyer torched the Dragons over their backflip on Folau, demanding a proper explanation from the club.

“To whoever is in charge at the Dragons, your fans need answers, your fans need a face to tell them what the hell is bloody going on,” he told Triple M’s Rush Hour with MG.

“I mean c’mon, someone’s got to be accountable for this trainwreck that we just saw in the last 48 hours.

“It took us all by surprise, got us all involved, made us all have an opinion and then a two line statement to say you know what, we’ve stopped our chase of Israel.

“C’mon man… and in the same breath, they’ve lost their inspirational skipper for four seasons.

“I know there’s been a lot of narrative today about how poor it’s been but I’m speaking here on behalf of Dragons fans. They want answers, they need answers and they need them now.”

Geyer was seething as he responded to a question about what he’d do if the Panthers were in the same situation.

“I’d be calling for someone’s head,” he responded.

“As an ex-player I’d be embarrassed about the way my club has handled such a delicate situation.”

“Israel Folau is a delicate situation, a very emotive situation. We all bought into the whole Israel saga in the last 48 hours and now it’s just fizzled off.”

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