Folau takes legal action against Queensland Rugby League

Sydney (AFP) –


Dual-code international Israel Folau has applied for a Supreme Court injunction against Queensland Rugby League (QRL) in a bid to resume his career in Australia, claiming its refusal to register him amounted to a restraint of trade.

The controversial 32-year-old, who was sacked by Rugby Australia in 2019 for saying "hell awaits" gay people and others he considers sinners, wants to play for small-town club Southport Tigers, alongside his two brothers.

But the QRL last month said it needed confirmation he had been released from his contract with his previous team, French Super League side Catalan Dragons, who insist he remains on their books.

Folau has the financial backing of mining billionaire Clive Palmer and his lawyer Sam Iskander said the Supreme Court action was being taken because the QRL had been unreasonable in not allowing him to play, thereby restraining his trade.

"Israel Folau is a perfect role model for the game and the QRL needs to recognise that," Iskander said in a statement after the injunction was lodged late Thursday.

"Israel doesn't drink, smoke or take drugs. He's never been charged with any criminal offence.

"Israel, like any other Australian, has the right to support his family.

"All Israel wants is the opportunity to return to the game he loves, to play alongside his brothers and to do the best he can for his wife and family," he added.

Governing body QRL had no immediate comment, but Catalans head of football Alex Chan said Folau remained one of their players.

"He is still registered to the Dragons, he is still on our salary cap and he is still registered with the RFL (Rugby Football League)," Chan told The Australian newspaper.

Rugby Australia's sacking of Folau in 2019 sparked a long-running legal dispute that was eventually settled when they made a multi-million dollar out-of-court payment.

The deeply religious Folau said last month he was open to a return to the top-tier National Rugby League but the QRL said any registration it granted would be for playing at community level only.

The Australian Rugby League Commission has previously suggested it would not allow Folau to return to the top tier, with chairman Peter V'landys saying he wanted an inclusive game.

Folau was a star NRL player early in his career, then switched to rugby union after an unsuccessful stint playing Australian Rules.

He scored 37 tries in 73 rugby union Tests for the Wallabies before being dumped, then returned to league in February last year in France with the Dragons.