Folau breaks silence for first time since return to rugby league

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 5 Feb 2020, 2:59PM
Israel Folau. Photo / Getty
Israel Folau. Photo / Getty

Folau breaks silence for first time since return to rugby league

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 5 Feb 2020, 2:59PM

Israel Folau has broken his silence for the first time since his controversial return to rugby league with Super League club Catalans Dragons – and he was handed just the soft-ball he needed.

After initially planning to unveil Folau at a media press conference, the Dragons decided to cancel the event following the public backlash to the signing.

Instead, Folau was given an interview with Sky Sports UK where he wasn't quizzed about his homophobic views or the controversy surrounding it.

Folau has not played since he was sacked by Rugby Australia last May for making homophobic comments on social media and he was then denied the chance to resurrect his career in the NRL.

Since the signing with the Dragons was announced, Halifax prop Keegan Hirst – Britain's first openly gay rugby league player – slammed the decision as "disappointing and frustrating".

Super League club Hull KR then threatened legal action over the move if it were to cause financial losses for the league.

However, Folau wasn't asked about the controversy surrounding his return to the sport and talked instead about his "excitement" about the opportunity to play rugby league again.

"I'm excited to be back playing the game that I grew up playing," Folau told Sky Sports UK.

"It's been 10 years since I last played rugby league and I'm grateful for the opportunity to be a part of a great organisation, a great team.

"I'm looking forward to getting out there and playing alongside the boys.

"It's a beautiful part of the world, to be here in the south of France with the Dragons. You can see how professional the boys are, the coaching staff and everyone that's involved in the club.

"I'm here to compete and play some good footy, and hopefully be a consistent player for the team. I missed that team camaraderie, the team environment and being around your teammates, being able to train and work alongside the coaches.

"That's something I've missed the last seven months but it's fantastic to be back in that team environment again, and getting back in that routine of training with the boys and getting out on the field and enjoying the game."

Dragons head coach Steve McNamara says he expected the signing of Folau to be controversial, but stands by the club's decision.

"We knew it would be controversial," McNamara told Sky Sports UK.

"An opportunity arose when an overseas player left our club, we needed an outside back. We looked in France, England and overseas. We went down the route of investigating a fair few players, Israel was on that list.

"Having spent a lot of time speaking to him and understanding him a lot more, and getting the reassurances we did, we made a decision as a club that we would support the signing of Israel and give him another opportunity in our game."

Folau has begun training with the club but it's unknown if he will make his debut against Wakefield on Sunday.

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