ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys has teed off at the Australian Christian Lobby’s (ACL) attempt to pressure the NRL to green light an Israel Folau comeback.
Folau has been linked to several NRL clubs, most notably the Dragons, since returning to Australia late last year following a stint with Catalans in the English Super League.
His bid to return to the game that made him a household name has repeatedly been shut down, forcing his supporters to try to build public pressure to give the controversial figure a shot at redemption in his home country.
The ACL’s campaign made a splash today in the form of a full page ad in The Daily Telegraph. The advocacy group has also launched a petition on Folau’s behalf and is attempting to drive the code-hopping star’s agenda on social media using the hashtag #lethimplay.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the ACL is also planning to buy TV ads and space on billboards to further ram home its message.
Yet, before the campaign was able to gather any momentum, it has already hit a roadblock in the formidable form of V’landys.
“This Christian Lobby with their full-page ads basically are wasting their resources and money because there is no application,” V’landys told the Herald.
“There are a lot more things in life that they could be lobbying for, like [an end to] poverty and inequality and all those sort of things, rather than this.”
ACL managing director Martyn Iles said the campaign, which is being fully funded by the ACL, was launched without Folau’s knowledge. The online petition campaigning for Folau’s NRL return has been signed by almost 13,000 people so far.
“We’re just hoping the NRL will allow one of the clubs to give Israel a contract,” Isles said.
“That’s the problem at the moment. There are clubs that want him. That’s the reality. There are players, there are coaches that want him. [As for] the campaign; it’s early days and it’s going to continue.”
For any club to sign Folau they must get approval from the ARL Commission.
V’landys told the Herald protesters were free to have their say but added that none of the 16 clubs had attempted to have a contract registered.
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“Israel Folau, like every other player, has to follow a process. The process is he has to have a contract with a club and then he has to apply for registration. Neither of those things has been done.”
Folau was sacked by Rugby Australia in 2019 following a social media scandal and he has not been seen in either rugby code on Australian soil since.
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