The Catalans Dragons have finally agreed to the release of Israel Folau, meaning the code-hopper is cleared to return to Australian rugby league this weekend.
Backed by billionaire Clive Palmer, Folau announced his intention to play for Gold Coast local team the Southport Tigers some weeks ago.
While Catalans were unwilling to formally release Folau, an agreement has now been reached between the two parties and the Queensland Rugby League have registered Folau.
It is, at this stage, unclear however whether second-tier rugby league and below will be able to proceed in Brisbane this weekend. The Queensland government have introduced a snap three-day lockdown which is due to expire at 6pm on Friday evening for Brisbane, the Gold Coast, and other parts of the state.
Their counterparts at New South Wales Rugby League have already postponed all of their state-run competitions for two weeks.
Catalans, the only fully professional French club, agreed to release Folau on the basis of personal and family reasons.
In a statement, club chairman Bernard Guasch said Folau had been great for the club.
“Israel has been great with us in 2020 both on and off the field and we wanted to facilitate the negotiations to reach an agreement. He told us his desire to play alongside his two brothers and we didn't want to prevent him. We wish him all the best in the next chapter of his career," the statement said.
The Queensland Rugby League were quick to act upon the news, issuing their own statement.
"The QRL made clear from the outset that Mr Folau would be registered upon completion of the registration process, including the obtaining of a release from his previous overseas club, as per the rules of the game which apply to all players," the statement read.
"This has today been forthcoming with authorisation from the game’s international body, meaning the QRL has now been able to finalise his registration with the Southport Tigers."
While Southport picked up a win in their last game, they were earlier this month beaten 88-0 by the Burleigh Bears.
Folau, formally one of the brightest young talents in the game before switching to rugby union where he represented Australia, may have little chance of ever playing at a professional level again, but that didn't stop Palmer from spruiking his chances with a post on Twitter.
“The QRL needs to select him for the final match. Never before have we seen a QRL condition put on a player where the player has to give up representative honours and selection,’’
“The fans want to see Israel back on the field playing and he needs to be paid what is owed,’’
— Clive Palmer (@CliveFPalmer) June 28, 2021
Folau's first hit-out for the Tigers will come on Saturday evening against the Currumbin Tigers.