Israel Folau warms up prior to the Betfred Super League match between Hull FC and Catalan Dragons in March.
Israel Folau warms up prior to the Betfred Super League match between Hull FC and Catalan Dragons in March.

Folau’s NRL return hits a speed bump

South Sydney CEO Blake Solly has dismissed speculation NRL clubs will attempt to sign overseas-based sidelined stars, such as sacked Wallaby Israel Folau, on short-term deals, saying it is "not grounded in reality".

With the UK Super League suspended indefinitely due to the coronavirus, Toronto's Sonny Bill Williams, Wigan's Jackson Hastings, Warrington's Blake Austin and Folau were reportedly in NRL clubs' sights ahead of the Australian competition's proposed May 28 resumption.

Rugby stars Quade Cooper and Ben Te'o had also been tossed up as targets with the code in limbo due to the pandemic.

While Solly likes the idea of luring big names to the NRL on short-term deals, he can't see it happening.

"I don't want to burst anyone's balloon, but I don't think it's realistic," Solly told Sky Sports.

Israel Folau has played three games for the Catalans Dragons.
Israel Folau has played three games for the Catalans Dragons.

"Most clubs have filled out their squad of 30 or got 29 players.

"If you think every one of those players is going to be fit and ready to play at the end of May, given the break we've had, it's hard to see how you'd fit another player in at the expense of someone contracted.

"On top of the squads of 30, each player has between three and six development players you'd call into the squad, so given the contract regulations and the financial implications of bringing in a guest like that, it would seem like it's a nice news story but not grounded in reality."

Catalans Dragons coach Steve McNamara is aware of the speculation surrounding Folau, but is reluctant to let go of his latest star after just three games.

"The main thing that caught our eye internally was how hard he has worked for the team and how he did that on the back of not a great fitness base, given his time out of the sport," McNamara told The Sydney Morning Herald.

"To roll up his sleeves the way he did and work as hard as he did in just three games, that was the biggest thing that impressed us.

"When we made the decision to sign him it was on a one-year deal and about giving Izzy that opportunity. If he continues to keep working hard and enjoying what he's doing here, it's something we'll look at in the future. It's not on our agenda right now.

Catalans Dragons coach Steve McNamara
Catalans Dragons coach Steve McNamara

"I'm sure there will be speculation about him, but for us it was our agreement to get him back playing, getting that smile back on his face, and he was in the process of doing that.

"We'll speak to Izzy at the right time. We're only three games in, we might not get started until July, and nobody knows what the financial climate will look like. It's a very unclear picture right now for players and staff."

Another proposed target, ex-NSW star James Maloney, has already ruled out the prospect of organising a short-term NRL deal, saying it sounded like a headache he could do without. Catalans playmaker Maloney is in lockdown in France with his family as he sweats on a Super League return date.

"I think it's probably more headaches logistically than what it's sort of worth, and I just don't think it's possible," he told 2GB radio this week.

With AAP

 

Originally published as Folau's NRL return hits a speed bump


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