Folau’s footy career takes mysterious twist
When it was reported earlier this year Israel Folau was looking to ditch the UK Super League and return to the NRL, his coach wasn't having it.
Catalans Dragons boss Steve McNamara called the speculation about his star player "absolute rubbish", emphatically denying the club had been left in the dark about Folau's intentions of coming home because it was aware he was in Australia for "family reasons".
Watch The 2021 NRL Telstra Premiership Live & On-Demand with No Ad-Breaks During Play. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >
But the Dragons have dropped a huge hint his time with them may be over after they left him out of their squad for the upcoming season.
The dual international revived his rugby league career with Catalans, who offered him a lifeline when his Rugby Australia contract was torn up for making homophobic comments on social media. Folau signed a one-year extension to keep him at the Dragons in 2021, but that appears unlikely given he's absent from McNamara's 29-man squad.
Former New Zealand international Dean Whare has been given the No. 4 jersey Folau wore last season, adding to the intrigue.
St George was chasing Folau's signature but pulled out of the hunt because of the fierce backlash that erupted when news of their pursuit to bring him back to the NRL was made public.
Even though the Dragons' bid failed, Folau is reportedly still keen to return to the code where he announced himself to Australia as a teenage superstar more than a decade ago.
It was reported last month the 31-year-old wanted to meet with Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) chairman Peter V'landys and NRL CEO Andrew Abdo to discuss whether he has a future in the code.
However, the NRL reportedly knocked back that offer, and won't sit down with Folau unless a club makes a formal application to sign him.
The NRL hasn't put a blanket ban on Folau returning but there have been suggestions he would be more trouble than he's worth should he make a comeback. V'landys said in February the league would assess any application by a club to recruit the controversial footy player "on its due merits".
"Like any other person in the community he deserves due process and natural justice and he will get that," V'landys told Andrew Voss on SEN.
Folau debuted for the Melbourne Storm as a teenager in 2007 before moving north to play two seasons with the Broncos between 2009-2010. The explosive back played five Origins for Queensland and eight Tests for Australia before dropping a bombshell and quitting to play AFL.
A short stint at GWS was followed by a 73-Test run with the Wallabies before his acrimonious break-up with the 15-man code Down Under.
With COVID-19 causing havoc around the world, Folau returned to Australia during the summer because of personal reasons and it looks like he is keen to stay.
V'landys has said previously Folau's views on homosexuality are not welcome in the NRL and in October 2019, poured cold water over the idea of Folau ever returning.
"The game is inclusive. Israel's comments are not inclusive," V'landys said back then.
Originally published as Mysterious twist in Israel Folau saga