Israel Folau in a Catalan Dragons shirt.
Israel Folau in a Catalan Dragons shirt.

Super League in crisis over Folau signing

The fallout from Israel Folau's Super League signing continues with rival club Hull KR threatening legal action over the divisive move.

The BBC has obtained an email sent last week by Hull KR chairman Neil Hudgell to Folau's French team the Catalans Dragons.

Hudgell warns Catalans that legal action will be taken should Hull KR suffer any financial loss - from sponsors to potential investors, gate takings and reputational damage - as a direct result of Folau's controversial signing.

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.

That did not stop Catalans offering Folau a one-year deal for this season.

In the email obtained by the BBC from Hull KR to Catalans, Hudgell outlines the club's frustrations.

"I reserve my position to take proceedings v Catalans Dragons. For example, if title sponsor withdraws, or external investment is not secured, or quantifiable reputational damage is caused to the brand of Super League and its members," he wrote.

Several other clubs subsequently told Catalans they supported Hudgell's stance and would also consider legal action for potential damages.

Super League club chiefs will meet at Salford on Wednesday, with the signing of Folau top of the agenda. Catalans Chairman Bernard Gausch is expected to make a rare appearance, as he usually sends a representative.

Folau has started training with Catalans but a planned media appearance in Perpignan later this week was cancelled as the stoush comes to a head.

"He arrived Sunday, we didn't want to shout it from the rooftops, so he could arrive in peace," Dragons spokesman Yannick Rey told AFP.

Catalans ignored the warnings of both the Rugby Football League and Super League with their signing of the 30-year-old Folau on a one-year contract but the transfer has been defended by the club's chairman Bernard Guasch and head coach Steve McNamara.

Speaking on Tuesday, McNamara said: "We knew it would be controversial. As an individual I stand by the club's statement that Bernard issued. I fully support that statement.

"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, and 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."

Maria Folau is with Israel in France. Picture: Aaron Francis/The Australian
Maria Folau is with Israel in France. Picture: Aaron Francis/The Australian

Folau says he is "grateful" to be playing Super League.

"I'm excited to be back playing the game that I grew up playing," Folau said, in an interview filmed by the club behind closed doors.

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

Folau's first appearance for Catalans remains uncertain, but he could make his debut at Wakefield on Sunday, according to Sky Sports News reporter Fraser Dainton.

"There is every chance he may come off the bench for the last 10 minutes, given the fact he is training from Tuesday," Dainton said.

"He will get a good few sessions with his new teammates and have time to get a grasp of what head coach Steve McNamara wants from him.

"McNamara did say to me after their season-opening game against Huddersfield Giants that the Dragons are particularly short in Folau's position (centre). So the possibility remains that he could potentially feature this weekend."

- New Zealand Herald, Sky Sports


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