Rugby league: NRL knocks back Israel Folau's request for face-to-face meeting

The NRL has rejected Israel Folau's request for a face-to-face meeting, unless a club formally requests to sign the controversial cross-code star.

Folau was linked to St George Dragons earlier this month, but the club ditched its pursuit of the former Wallaby, after severe backlash from fans and sponsors.

But the Sydney Morning Herald reports Folau is determined to return to the game that made him a sporting superstar and claims the 31-year-old's representatives have reached out to NRL officials, requesting a meeting, but were told there was nothing to discuss at this time.

All 16 clubs were reportedly contacted and none were prepared to sign him, citing adverse publicity, if they are even linked to his signature.

Folau is apparently prepared to guarantee he won't publicly express his religious beliefs, if the NRL is prepared to register him.

The former Kangaroos international is currently on a two-year deal with French Super League club Catalans, but returned to Australia, when COVID-19 halted his first season.

While Catalans would welcome Folay back, he and wife Maria Folau are highly unlikely to return to Europe during a global pandemic.

"One hundred percent Izzy is always welcome to come back here," coach Steve McNamara said this month. "He still has a contract here.

"Given the severity of his family situation, we understand it might not be possible for him to come back."

Folau split acrimoniously from Rugby Australia in 2019, after several controversial homophobic social media posts.

Ian Roberts - the first openly gay professional rugby league player - tells SMH sport isn't always about winning and losing, and pans St George for even considering recruiting Folau.

"I don't know who okayed this and thought it was a good idea, or thought it would be good for the club at St George Illawarra - the coach, the board, whatever," Roberts says. "But they would have to reflect upon their position in rugby league.

"This is about the very fabric of what rugby league is about - it's about community, inclusion, integrity.

"This isn't about winning and losing games... at what cost? I'm just disappointed it got this far."

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