The NRL’s St George Illawarra Dragons are hoping to sign Catalans Dragons star Israel Folau on a two-year contract.
But they may not be given permission to do so by the NRL, whose Chairman Peter V’landys made it plain more than a year ago that Folau wouldn’t be welcome in the NRL after he posted a religiously inspired Instagram message suggesting that hell awaits gay people.
Folau is currently in Australia for personal reasons involving a sick relative, but there has been speculation that he might stay in the country and the move by the Dragons would add fuel to that fire.
St George Illawarra CEO Ryan Webb told NRL.com that his club had recently submitted a written request to the NRL to explore Folau’s return to the Telstra Premiership.
Although they are yet to make a firm offer, their proposal to the NRL contains strict stipulations around Folau’s public and social media comments, which includes immediate termination if he breaches the suggested contract conditions.
“We’re definitely interested and we’re talking to Israel,” Webb told NRL.com.
“Now we’re working with the NRL to allay any concerns on registering a contract for him.
“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.”
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo has confirmed that the NRL will undertake “due diligence” around Folau’s potential return.
“Any player or official needs to be registered with the NRL. That registration process involves a number of due diligence matters,” Abdo said.
“Of course, you always have to have an open mind and you have to follow due process and you have to be fair and we’ll follow that process.
“Any decision that you make, you need to think about the fans, you need to think about your investors and sponsors and all of that will be taken into account. But ultimately it’s the NRL’s decision.
“What we intend to do is follow the process that is outlined in our rules and regulations and be very fair.”
Catalans Dragons coach Steve McNamara has previously rebuffed rumours that Folau would leave the club, but so far there has been no comment from the Catalans about the latest report of a potential departure.