(Reuters) – Former Australia rugby union international, Israel Folau, has made a switch back to rugby league, after joining Catalans Dragons on a one-year deal, the French club announced here on Tuesday.
Folau reached a settlement with Rugby Australia in December, after his contract was torn up in May for posting a meme on social media that said hell awaits “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers” and other groups.
Dragons chairman, Bernard Guasch, said they wanted to give Folau a “new opportunity” but said the club does not share the player’s religious beliefs.
“We do not share or condone those views and we are totally committed to our club and our sport being open and welcoming to everyone,” he said.
“We do not believe that those views should be publicly expressed, especially by a high-profile sports person. We have a signed agreement with the RFL.
“Any transgression will trigger an immediate termination of Israel’s contract and a substantial fine for the club.”
Folau, who had enjoyed a successful stint in the National Rugby League with Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos before switching codes, was told he would not be allowed a return to NRL.
But the Rugby Football League (RFL) has confirmed it will not prevent the player’s registration with the Dragons.
“This is a difficult decision, as the RFL places a high value on the sport’s reputation in prioritising inclusion and diversity – and deplores the player’s previous comments,” the RFL said in a statement.
“However, the moral responsibility for deciding whether to sign a player sits with individual clubs.”
Super League also “deplores” the comments made by Folau in the past, but executive chairman, Robert Elstone, said […]they do not have the authority to veto the registration of players.
Folau said he acknowledged the views expressed by Super League and the RFL.
“I’m a proud Christian, my beliefs are personal, my intention is not to hurt anyone and I will not be making further public comment about them,” he added.
“I look forward to my return to the great game of Rugby League with the Catalans Dragons.”