NRL boss Peter V'Landys has hit out at the Australian Christian Lobby, suggesting the group should spend more of their time and resources fighting poverty instead of attempting to get Israel Folau back into the league.
Folau, who has returned to Australia despite still being contracted to French Super League outfit Catalans, reportedly prefers to remain home and was reportedly linked to a deal with St George Illawarra earlier in the year.
After his sensational exit from his Rugby Australia contract over a homophobic Instagram post, V'Landys has repeatedly insisted there is no place for Folau in the NRL.
However the ACL has decided to take up Folau's cause, taking out a full-page advertisement in Tuesday's Daily Telegraph, directing readers to an online petition and the hashtag #lethimplay.
Asked about the campaign by the Sydney Morning Herald, V'Landys remained adamant that the NRL's stance on Folau would not change.
“This Christian Lobby with their full-page ads basically are wasting their resources and money because there is no application,” he said.
“There are a lot more things in life that they could be lobbying for, like (ending) poverty and inequality and all those sort of things, rather than this.”
ACL director Martin Iles said the organisation had not sought Folau's blessing before launching the advertisement and petition, but added his belief that there were NRL clubs interested in signing the controversial former Wallaby.
“The purpose of the ads is to connect more people with the campaign, and anybody who wants to have a say has the opportunity to do so,” he said.
“We’re just hoping the NRL will allow one of the clubs to give Israel a contract.
“That’s the problem at the moment. There are clubs that want him. That’s the reality. There are players, there are coaches that want him.”
ARLC approve changes for new 18th man rule
Incidents of foul play can now trigger an 18th man to be activated by NRL clubs after the Australian Rugby League Commission on Tuesday approved revised criteria around an extra substitution.
After consultation with clubs and players the ARLC has signed off on changes to their controversial original proposal for an 18th man for three failed head injury assessments only.
Scrapped is the notion of the development player, which raised concerns about the effectiveness of having an 18th player on the bench for extreme circumstances in the first place.
The new rule approved for use from round five will allow clubs to select an 18th man one hour prior to kick-off from their 21-man squad named at the start of the week.
That extra substitution can only be activated once three players suffer a concussion, or a player suffers a game-ending injury as a result of foul play in which the offender is sent off or sin-binned.
The introduction of an extra substitution for foul play follows calls from players and coaches and stops clubs being disadvantaged in games due to illegal behaviour.
ARLC chairman Peter V'landys said the commission will be flexible with the changes and adapt them if need be.
"Player wellbeing is a priority for the commission and this additional safety net ensures players continue to be protected,'" he said.
The changes follow wide-spread criticism that the original proposal was too soft and reactionary after three Cronulla players failed HIAs in their loss to Parramatta in round three.
It was just the second incident in the NRL's history in which three players from the one team were lost to concussion during a game.
However, it raised concerns for player welfare and the ongoing quality of matches given the tightening guidelines around concussion protocols in the sport.
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