Israel Folau to return with Gold Coast amateur team after securing Catalans release

Sport

Israel Folau will play rugby league again in Australia after the Queensland Rugby League confirmed the controversial dual-code international has been registered to play for the Southport Tigers in the Rugby League Gold Coast competition.

The QRL made the announcement on Tuesday after French club Catalans Dragons confirmed Folau had been released from the remainder of his contract and the International Rugby League ratified his eligibility.

“As previously stated, the QRL board has carefully considered all aspects of the registration request, in line with its current rules and processes,” a QRL statement read.

“The QRL made clear from the outset that Mr Folau would be registered upon completion of the registration process, including the obtaining of a release from his previous overseas club, as per the rules of the game which apply to all players.

“This has today been forthcoming with authorisation from the game’s international body, meaning the QRL has now been able to finalise his registration with the Southport Tigers.”

Folau’s bid to play for the amateur club had been held up because he was still contracted to Super League club Catalans, who he joined in 2020 before signing a one-year extension for 2021.

The QRL’s registration process, in alignment with International Rugby League rules, stipulates that all players must be free from other contractural obligations before they can be cleared to play.

But the 32-year-old’s path was effectively cleared to appear in the lower reaches of state rugby league after talks with the Dragons over his release concluded on Monday.

“Israel has been great with us in 2020 both on and off the field and we wanted to facilitate the negotiations to reach an agreement,” said Catalans chairman Bernard Guasch. “He told us his desire to play alongside his two brothers and we didn’t want to prevent him. We wish him all the best in the next chapter of his career.”

Folau, who was sacked by Rugby Australia in 2019 over social media posts that were deemed discriminatory, did not to return to France to see out the remainder of his contract having returned to Australia “for a personal family situation”.

After his registration was refused by the QRL, the former Wallabies player lodged a Supreme Court injunction against the QRL earlier his month, claiming unreasonable restraint of trade. A hearing had been set for 12 July.

Backed by billionaire businessman Clive Palmer, Folau will play alongside his two brothers for the Tigers.

Folau, who has played professionally in three codes after a stint in the AFL in 2011, appeared in most of the Dragons’ games last season but was allowed to miss the start of the new season to attend to a family matter in Australia.

He has not played in his home country since his rugby union career was ended after he posted that hell awaited “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers” and others.