Israel Folau gets massive win in bid to return to rugby league

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Israel Folau is seen here speaking about his bid to return to rugby league in Australia.
Israel Folau has been given the green light to make his return to rugby league in Australia. Pic: Getty

Israel Folau is free to return to rugby league after a contract saga with French club Catalans Dragons was reportedly resolved.

The Courier Mail is reporting that the former Kangaraoos and Wallabies star reached an out-of-court agreement with the Dragons, releasing the 32-year-old from his contract with the French club.

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The former Wallaby's attempt to return to rugby league via a local team on the Gold Coast, bankrolled by former MP Clive Palmer, hit a snag when the Queensland Rugby League (QRL) declared Folau would need to be released by the Catalans before he could do so.

Catalans had blocked Folau's attempts to try and play with the Southport Tigers after claiming that he reneged on the final year of his contract to return to Australia on compassionate grounds.

Folau's legal team argued the French-based club repudiated its contract by failing to make payments to him after December 2020, a letter from Folau's lawyer contained in court documents says.

The Aussie star was not included in Catalans' 2021 playing squad and there was nothing budgeted for him in the salary cap, the letter dated May 25 states.

Earlier this month, Folau sought an injunction against QRL on July 12 in order to play for the Southport Tigers.

His agreement with Catalans Dragons appears to have given the code-hopping star the green light to make his long-awaited return to rugby league in Australia.

Folau last played rugby league in Australia in 2010 before pursuing a short-lived AFL career with expansion club GWS and then a rugby union career which included 73 Test appearances for Australia.

Controversial career comes full circle

He returned to professional rugby league after reaching a legal settlement with Rugby Australia, who sacked him over controversial religious posts on social media that said "hell awaits" homosexuals.

Following his sacking and eventual payout from RA, Folau joined Super League club Catalans in January 2020.

Catalans' football manager Alex Chan said they expected Folau to return at some stage during the year having granted him compassionate leave to deal with family matters in Australia.

Palmer has previously dismissed any suggestion Catalans have a case for compensation.

Pictured here, businessman Clive Palmer and Israel Folau address the media in a press conference.
Businessman Clive Palmer has bankrolled Israel Folau's return to Australian rugby league. Pic: Getty

Folau is hoping to play for the Tigers alongside brothers John and Eni in the third-tier competition in Queensland.

Folau's first game could be Southport's trip to play Currumbin Eagles on July 7 in a match that's expected to attract a large crowd if the controversial figure makes his debut appearance.

The QRL has previously indicated it would consider Folau's application to be registered "in line with its rules and processes" but Palmer threatened legal action if it didn't happen imminently.

"Israel doesn't drink, smoke or take drugs. He has never been charged with a criminal offence" Palmer said in a statement at the time.

"He loves his wife and his son. He has a rugby playing record second to none.

"If he is not registered by Wednesday, I believe he will issue an injunction in the Federal Court of Australia against the QRL for their discrimination against him on religious grounds."

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