Sacked Wallabies star Israel Folau poised for Australian rugby league return in Queensland

Queensland Rugby League is poised to green-light Israel Folau’s return to the 13-man code - but with conditions.

Last week, the former Wallabies star and billionaire Clive Palmer lobbied the state body to allow Folau to join two of his brothers at Southport Tigers on the Gold Coast.

The utility back had his Rugby Australia contract torn up in May 2019, after he posted homophobic messages on social media. Since then, he has plied his trade with the French Catalans Dragons club in the UK Super League.

Folau's attempts to return to the Australian NRL - where he began his crosscode career at Melbourne Storm - have been repeatedly blocked. Most recently, St George Dragons abandoned attempts to register him in the face of overwhelming public and sponsor opposition.

His latest attempt to stick a foot in the door seems to have gained more traction, thanks to support from Tigers patron Palmer, but the QRL - a feeder to the national competition - has put some tough provisos on his return.

"The QRL have not received confirmation that Folau is released from his existing playing contract, not has he received clearance from his last known registered overseas club," it says.

"The QRL cannot proceed with any registration approval until such time as the clearance is received - this is in accordance with current national policy regarding international clearances playing at any level of the game."

Folau, who is married to former Silver Ferns netball star Maria Folau, is still contracted with Catalans until the end of 2021 and they have threatened legal action, if he tries to play for Southport in the meantime.

Presumably, that challenge can be overcome through financial compensation or a transfer fee.

"On receipt of international, Folau will be granted permission to register for the Southport Tigers at a community rugby league level and no higher, as per the registration request that has been made," says QRL.

That condition seems to put a cap on Folau's NRL aspirations, while the administrators have also underlined their opposition to his public beliefs, which he claims are based on the Bible.

"Any registration is subject to Folau confirming he has read and understood his obligations as a player under the QRL rules, the QRL Code of Conduct and the Community Rugby League terms and conditions NRL registration.

"The QRL acknowledge that previous social media comments made by Folau, whilst not a registered participant in rugby league at the time, do not align to the beliefs of the game or the QRL.

"The QRL is an inclusive organisation with proud diversity and inclusion framework."

Last week, media questioned Folau about the Tigers' raunchy victory song, which seemed to conflict with his strict religious viewpoint, but Palmer dismissed the issue as a "beat-up", claiming he had never heard such a song.