Catalans Dragons threaten action over Israel Folau’s bid to join Queensland club

Catalans Dragons are considering taking legal action against Israel Folau after discovering his latest attempt to make a playing comeback in Australia.

The 32-year-old dual-code international was given compassionate leave by the Super League club at the start of the year after a close family member fell seriously ill but he remains contracted to them for the 2021 season.

Catalans football manager Alex Chan says he was “shocked” by news of Folau’s bid to sign for Southport Tigers, who play in the Queensland League.

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Folau appeared at a press conference in Brisbane on Friday alongside Queensland MP Clive Palmer, his sponsor who has threatened legal action of his own if the player is prevented from resuming his career alongside his two brothers at the Southport club.

A statement by the local league said: “Queensland Rugby League has received an application for registration for Israel Folau to join the Southport Tigers.

“QRL is currently considering the Tigers’ application, in line with its rules and processes that govern the registration of players.

“An update will be provided when the process is complete.”

The Catalans prepared for the season without Folau, handing his old number four shirt to new signing Dean Whare, but Chan says they always hoped he would return at some stage during the year.

“Our stance hasn’t changed,” Chan told the PA news agency. “We’ve given Israel and his family time to get back together and make sure that everything is going good and we expected that, once Izzy found some stability, we’ve left the door open.

“We still hold his contract, he’s still a registered player with Catalans Dragons. It was a big shock to see what was put out there.

“We can’t just 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.

Rugby League – Carnegie Challenge Cup Semi-Final – Wigan Warriors v Catalans Dragons – The Halliwell Jones Stadium
Alex Chan says he was shocked by news of Israel Folau’s signing for Southport Tigers (PA Images/Anna Gowthorpe)

“We need to start being pro-active from our end in case things start to escalate and go nasty.”

Folau was courted by NRL club St George Illawarra earlier in the year but they pulled out of negotiations after experiencing a backlash over their attempts to sign a player who was sacked by Rugby Australia in 2019 for posting homophobic comments on social media.

Chan, who says his club lost sponsorship after taking a gamble over his signing ahead of the 2020 season, insists they will demand recompense from any club wanting to take over his registration.

“His signing had a massive impact on us as a club,” he said.

“We encountered a lot of criticism and a lot of abuse and we lost sponsorship. We took a financial hit because certain people within the game parted with us.

Israel Folau file photo
Israel Folau seen in front of a Black Lives Matter banner during a Catalans Dragons match in 2020 (PA Images/Zac Goodwin)

“On the other side, he brought a lot of positivity back to our club with the way he played and the way he conducts himself as a professional. And we got some good results on the back of his on-field performances.

“We based our 2021 squad around certain players within our group last year. Izzy was a big influence on certain ways we went with player recruitment and player retention.

“Circumstances changed in his personal life which we totally understood and we continue to be supportive.

“But at the same time, we’re missing Izzy in our team. We checked and recruited him and we retained him because we started building a team capable of winning the championship around players like him.

“We’re still ambitious to get Izzy to return to France and pick up the season with us.”