Israel Folau to make rugby league return with Tonga

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Monday, 23 September 2019, 7:50PM
Israel Folau will be making a return to rugby league. (Photo / Photosport)
Israel Folau will be making a return to rugby league. (Photo / Photosport)

Israel Folau has taken the first step in his sporting comeback, with it being confirmed that he will playing rugby league for Tonga next month.

The Chairman of the Tongan National Rugby League, Mr George Koloamatangi, announced that Folau, and brother John, will pull on the red of Tonga in the Oceania Cup.

Folau's multimillion-dollar contract with Rugby Australia was terminated in May over a social media post in which he paraphrased a Bible passage, saying "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" would go to hell unless they repented.

Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle terminated the Folau's multi-million dollar contract, on the advice of an independent panel, for "high level" breaches of the player's code of conduct.

Folau is currently in the midst of a legal battle over that decision, but will play rugby league in the meantime, with Mate Ma'a Tonga are set to play Great Britain in Hamilton on October 26, before meeting Australia at Eden Park on November 2.

Israel Folau said that he was excited about returning to rugby league and that being able to do that while playing for the Kingdom of Tonga was very special.

"I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to represent God, my family, my heritage and the people of Tonga," he said. "I am thankful that the RLIF have accepted my availability to play."

Both brothers have registered to play league through the TNRL and are eligible to play in international rugby league fixtures.

Tongan coach Frank Endacott said he was thrilled at having the Folau brothers in his squad.

"This is great news", said Endacott. "These guys are great footballers and bring size, pace and skill to the team. They will make a huge impact in the team and provide exciting attack options all over the park."

"This will be great boost to the internationals, and I cant wait to see the crowd support that this will generate from our famous Mate Ma'a Tonga supporters," Endacott added.

"And it is good to see the RLIF approving these players for internationals. This is great for the game."

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