Israel Folau is reportedly on the verge of a shock return to the NRL with the St George Illawarra Dragons.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Tuesday that the Dragons are on the cusp of signing Folau to a two-year deal, pending approval from the NRL.
‘DISGRACE’: Dragons fans fume over Cameron McInnes exit
The Dragons have reportedly submitted a formal application to the league’s governing body.
Australian Rugby League commission chairman Peter V’Landys has previously ruled out Folau’s return to the NRL, however he is said to be considering the Dragons’ proposal.
Dragons CEO Ryan Webb confirmed the club was in the process of signing Folau.
“We are always on the lookout for great players,” Webb told the Herald.
“We have enquired with the NRL about Israel and we will work with them to hopefully see him join us in 2021.
“We understand there will be a range of opinions in regards to this decision, but we believe he would be a good addition to our club.”
Webb said the club has also informed its major sponsors about the potential signing, given Folau’s controversial past.
Folau previously played in the NRL with the Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos, before switching codes to rugby union and playing for the Wallabies.
However he had his Rugby Australia contract terminated in 2019 after making a number of homophobic social media posts.
Dragons fans reacted with shock on social media, with the news coming just hours after the club confirmed captain Cameron McInnes has signed with Cronulla for the 2022 season.
Please God no! Irony intended.
— Sans Loco (@ramses) February 2, 2021
what a horrible day for dragons fans, lordy 😂
— domsullivan18 (@domsullivan18) February 2, 2021
Unbelievable. They ditch a great club man respected widely and try and sign ... Israel! Not sure what’s going on but they’re my spoon favourites.
— Cameron Bell (@CameronBell) February 2, 2021
This is a really, really, really bad idea @NRL. Please ensure this doesn't happen.
Bigoted homophobe Israel Folau could make 2021 NRL return as St George Illawarra Dragons offer two-year deal - https://t.co/xy4FTSmMt2
— scandrof (@scandrof) February 2, 2021
I've been an @NRL_Dragons fan my entire life, through thick and thin. If #IsraelFolau gets signed by them, that support will change. Take note, @pvlandys & co – Folau is no @mattburke710 when it comes to sportsmanship, as my @rollingstoneaus piece shows. https://t.co/p8bsSWW8Js
— Kate Doak (@katedoak) February 2, 2021
Absolutely devastated to see McInnes leave the @NRL_Dragons . Our management are an absolute disgrace for letting him go. Just dumb.
— Ryan O (@RRyandx77) February 1, 2021
Will the NRL backflip on Israel Folau exile?
V’Landys has previously said the NRL will not welcome Folau back.
“The game is inclusive. Israel’s comments are not inclusive,” he said after being appointed to his current role.
“When I was a kid and kids used to get bashed up because they were different, I used to go and defend them.
“And a lot of them, it's because their role models or their peers made them that way.
“I have no tolerance for people that put other people's lives [at risk] or [commit] violence. It's a big statement to make.
“With due respect to Israel, what he says, young kids listen to. He is a role model. They act on it. And when you're a kid at school and you get bashed up because you're different, I don't think that's a good thing.”
Folau has been playing for Catalans Dragons in the UK Super League, but rumours started swirling recently that he would not be honouring his contract for 2021.
The 31-year-old returned home at the end of last season with his wife and new-born baby and has yet to report back to the French club.
Catalans coach Steve McNamara told the PA news agency he has kept in regular dialogue with Folau, who remains committed to the club but needs to remain in Australia for personal reasons as well as restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“He's got a family situation and we're working together on that,” McNamara said.
“We're constantly speaking, we're monitoring the situation as best we can.”
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