The mystery surrounding Israel Folau's immediate playing future has taken a new twist after he was left out of the Catalans Dragons squad for the 2021 season.
Despite signing a one-year contract extension to remain at the French club in the UK Super League, Folau wasn't named in Steve McNamara's 29-man squad for the new season, starting March 27.
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New signing and former Penrith Panthers player Dean Whare has been handed the No. 4 jersey that Folau wore last season.
The future of Folau remains unclear as he remains with his family in Australia, taking care of his seriously-ill mother-in-law.
NRL club St George Illawarra dropped their initial interest in signing the dual-code international last month, with Catalans previously saying they haven't given up hope of having him back in 2021.
"It's an ongoing saga," Catalans football manager Alex Chan said late last month.
"We've given him the time he needs. The priority is the welfare of him and his family.
"They're going through some really testing and trying times with his mother-in-law's health.
"We've told Izzy to take as long as he needs and we're only a call away if they need anything we can help with.
"We're still forever hopeful that everything will get better and we'll be able to get him back in camp."
However it appears as though Catalans may have given up that hope.
Israel Folau's return to NRL hits speed-bump
Folau's path back to the NRL will only come if a club makes an official application for a contract, after he was denied a meeting with league bosses.
Folau's camp have made several moves for his return to the NRL, after his move back to rugby league from the 15-man game with Catalans last year.
The latest push included a request for a meeting with NRL hierarchy.
But the NRL told the dual-code star there is no point in any discussions with the governing body, given it will only consider player registrations when a club puts forward an application.
Bosses did, however, inform Folau's camp they were open to a meeting with the outside back should a club support his move.
It is thought to be unlikely any club will take the risk after the negative attention St George Illawarra received when they began the process to sign Folau, before pulling the pin.
The NRL previously indicated it does not see a spot for Folau in the game after his homophobic social media posts resulted in his axing by Rugby Australia.
Yet the NRL is open to considering any new application and weighing up if any requirements could be met for Folau to play in the competition for the first time since 2010.
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