Israel Folau has admitted he is grateful for the opportunity to resurrect his rugby career with Catalans Dragons as Super League clubs prepare for an explosive discussion on Wednesday regarding his controversial return to rugby league.
The Guardian revealed last week how the Hull KR owner, Neil Hudgell, had sent a letter to fellow top-flight clubs warning the Dragons of legal action should the competition suffer significant financial losses as a result of Folau’s return to rugby league. Hudgell has since received almost complete support across the competition over his correspondence.
Folau has now broken his silence on the move for the first time before a meeting of Super League clubs on Wednesday, telling Sky Sports he is thankful the Dragons have handed him a way back into professional sport. “I’m excited to be back playing the game I grew up playing,” he said. “It’s been 10 years since I last played league and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be part of a great organisation and a great team in Catalans.”
All 12 Super League clubs, along with competition chiefs, will meet in Salford on Wednesday, with Folau’s signing at the top of the agenda. Many remain unhappy they were told about the deal just minutes before it was announced, with those frustrations likely to be aired at the meeting. There is still strong opposition to the move, and the Catalans owner, Bernard Guasch, will make a rare trip to England to argue Catalans’ case.
Having not played a game of rugby since his sacking by Rugby Australia last May for his controversial views on homosexuality, Folau could make his Catalans debut as early as on Sunday, when the Dragons travel to Wakefield. “I’ve missed that team camaraderieand team environment. Being able to train with the team and work alongside the coaches, that’s something I’ve missed in the last seven months but it’s fantastic to be getting into that routine of training hard again, enjoying the game and putting my best foot forward.”
Steve McNamara, the Catalans coach, admitted he was aware of how controversial Folau’s signing was, but said he was convinced the move would be a success after spending time with the player. “We knew it would be controversial,” he said. “Having spent a lot of time speaking to him and understanding him a lot more and getting reassurances, we made a decision as a club that we would support Israel and give him another opportunity in our game.”