However the NRL has recently indicated to the Dragons that it will consider the application and will not make a decision until they have reviewed the proposal and spoken to the relevant parties, including a potential meeting with Folau himself.
“The NRL is one of the best sporting competitions in the world, we want to attract the best athletes in the world, and I’m not surprised there’s interest from athletes wanting to play in our competition,” chief executive Andrew Abdo said on Tuesday afternoon.
“At the moment there’s nothing before the NRL or the ARLC to consider. If there’s a formal application made, there’s a registration process and that due process will be followed and considered.”
The Dragons board has approved the approach, which is believed to include a verbal commitment for $450,000 in 2021 and $550,000 in 2022. The club has also informed its major sponsors of its intention to sign Folau, with all of the club’s partners agreeing to stay on despite front-of-jersey sponsor St George Bank expressing concerns.
St George Illawarra chief executive Ryan Webb confirmed the club was in the process of luring the former Queensland and Australian representative.
“We are always on the lookout for great players,” Webb told the Herald. “We have enquired with the NRL about Israel and we will work with them to hopefully see him join us in 2021. We understand there will be a range of opinions in regards to this decision, but we believe he would be a good addition to our club.”
Folau was meant to play for Catalans in the Super League this year, but returned home over the summer after the birth of his first child to be closer to his sick mother in law.
The news of the Dragons’ potential signing of Folau came on the day they lost skipper Cameron McInnes to the Sharks from next season on a four year deal worth around $2.2 million.
The Dragons have left money aside to sign Folau from this year, and won’t use it to entice Andrew McCullough to the club as a back-up hooker until they have an answer from the NRL.
When V’landys was appointed as chair of the ARL Commission, he was asked about the prospect of allowing Folau back into the sport.
“The game is inclusive. Israel’s comments are not inclusive,” V’landys said at the time. “When I was a kid and kids used to get bashed up because they were different, I used to go and defend them. And a lot of them, it’s because their role models or their peers made them that way.
“I have no tolerance for people that put other people’s lives [at risk] or [commit] violence. It’s a big statement to make. With due respect to Israel, what he says, young kids listen to. He is a role model. They act on it. And when you’re a kid at school and you get bashed up because you’re different, I don’t think that’s a good thing.”
with Christian Nicolussi
Michael Chammas is a sports reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald