Catalans Dragons are preparing for a legal battle with estranged centre Israel Folau following a decision by the controversial dual-code international to return to action in Australia.
The 32-year-old has applied for permission to play alongside his two brothers for Gold Coast League side Southport Tigers despite being contracted to the French club until the end of the season.
Catalans, for whom Folau played 15 times last season, scoring five tries, allowed him to return home to deal with a family health crisis in December.
They accepted that while he might not return, they would retain his registration on the understanding that a transfer fee would be payable if he switched to another club.
The player has made no secret of his wish to resume his career in Australia, although attempts by NRL side St George Illawarra to sign him collapsed following a revolt by club sponsors who objected to his outspoken religious beliefs.
Rugby union body Rugby Australia sacked him in 2019 for making homophobic comments.
He reaffirmed those beliefs last week when he teamed up with another controversial figure Down Under, billionaire businessman and politician Clive Palmer, who launched a media campaign to persuade Rugby League authorities to let Folau play.
Palmer told journalists that Catalans had “repudiated” their contract with Folau after failing to make promised payments and he was free to play for the Tigers.
Catalans insist they have done nothing wrong and football manager Alex Chan added:
“We still hold his contract, he’s still a registered player. It was a big shock to see what was put out there in the Australian media.
“We can’t let things happen like this. I’ve got to meet with the club president and our directors but I’ve already made our legal team aware of the situation that is starting to unfold.
“We need to start being proactive in case things escalate and turn nasty.”
Catalans became the first side this season to defeat reigning champions St Helens when they won 20-16 in Saturday’s Super League match in Perpignan.
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