The Dragons have ended their pursuit of Israel Folau after backlash from angry fans.
St George Illawarra officials shocked fans earlier this week when they announced they had approached the NRL about bringing the disgraced player back to Australia.
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However they backflipped on Wednesday night and announced they will not be signing Folau, citing the reaction from fans as the main reason.
The pursuit of the former dual international was discussed at a general meeting on Wednesday night with club officials deciding they would not proceed with an official application process.
“While the Dragons did inquire about signing Folau, the club can confirm that such discussions have now ceased,” a statement read.
In the 24 hours since chief executive Ryan Webb confirmed the club was interested in bringing the controversial athlete back to the NRL, the Dragons were flooded with feedback from fans and members.
Ultimately it was decided his signature would not be worth any damage caused to the Dragons brand.
The ARL commission is due to meet on Thursday and Folau was to be a topic on the agenda, including what requirements he needed to meet before being cleared for a comeback.
Fans flocked to social media on Wednesday in reaction to the backflip, with opinion heavily divided.
What a mess.
— stevesmith (@stevesmithb190) February 3, 2021
Thank god lmao
— 2021 Year of the Leniu (@angusbacon21) February 3, 2021
Amateur hour. Finally looked like showing some aspiration and you cant show the spine to see it through. Feel for CEO Webb here. Hung out to dry by the board.
— Guvner (@Guvner38) February 3, 2021
I can't believe it was even contemplated
— Thelonius Brunk (@TheloniusBrunk1) February 3, 2021
Just embarrassing, the club is an absolute shambles & disgrace.
— Johnny Drama (@jdrama68) February 3, 2021
Right decision but so amateurish. Not sure if it’s worse if it was floated as a distraction or it was real and the $ set aside for Folau in 22 cost us McInnes.
— Macca (@pmacpher3) February 3, 2021
What a disgrace. I've never been embarrassed by my Club before but this is the time. GUTLESS is the word.
— Saint Mike (@SaintsSJ) February 3, 2021
Smart decision there. Don't know what happened, don't care. All that matters is that he won't be wearing the Red V.
— Dra-gones 🤬 (@austirel) February 3, 2021
This is great news! Still disappointing it was even a consideration for the club. His disgusting views aside why would we want to spend money on a player who is past his prime and is known for breaching his contract. Mate put me in charge the club needs help!
— Taya Green (@tayza91) February 3, 2021
Ian Roberts, the NRL’s first openly-gay player, added his voice to the condemnation of a possible Folau signing earlier on Wednesday.
“We have these scenarios around homophobia, misogyny, drugs in sport, use of social media,” Roberts told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“It’s a safe place for players to get things wrong because we can talk about it.
“You know that shit-storm I was talking about? That shit-storm claims lives.
“People don’t understand the effects of homophobia and the consequences. People in the LGBTIQ community know it because it’s our reality.
“We’ve all lost friends to suicide. For any kid out of the suburbs now dealing with sexuality in a negative way, and self-harm is a reality, this shit-storm is deadly.”
Israel Folau free to join rival NRL club?
Folau is contracted to Catalans in the UK Super League until the end of 2021.
The Super League club was stunned to learn their star centre was considering a return to the NRL this season.
Coach Steve McNamara said he has been in constant dialogue with Folau while he has been in Australia over the summer dealing with a family matter.
“I'm in constant dialogue with Izzy,” McNamara said.
“Nothing has changed on that front for either of us. We are in constant dialogue over the whole situation.”
A statement issued by the Catalans in January said: “The club and Israel Folau have been in constant dialogue since Christmas regarding a personal family situation.
“This, along with COVID restrictions, are currently preventing his return to France.”
However, after the NRL confirmed they would consider any official application to register Folau the door remains open for him to return with another club.
Folau returned to Australia at the end of last season with his wife and newborn baby and has yet to report back to Perpignan ahead of the 2021 season.
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