Catalans Dragons’ Israel Folau takes part in his first training session at the Gilbert Brutus stadium in Perpignan on February 12, 2020. (RAYMOND ROIG/AFP via Getty Images)
Disgraced Australian rugby star Israel Folau has revealed he was considering retirement from the sport when he was handed a lucrative new deal with a European team.
The France-based Catalans Dragons announced it had signed Folau last month, less than a year after he was sacked from the New South Wales Waratahs and Australia’s national team for claiming that “hell awaits” gay people.
Israel Folau says he was considering ending his career.
Speaking to the French-language L’Indépendant newspaper, Folau revealed that he could have walked away from the sport, had he not been given a fresh chance in the sport.
Folau said: “I thought about ending my career and doing something else, so I thank the [team] president and the coach for the opportunity they’ve given me.
“It’s a big chance for me because I didn’t think I would play rugby league again and discover France and its culture.”
The player, who is set to make his debut for the Dragons this weekend against the Castleford Tigers, said he is “very excited to get back to” rugby league – after a decade in Australian rules football and rugby union teams.
Catalans Dragons defend signing as ‘biggest coup in history’.
The Catalans have defended the signing of Folau, who received an undisclosed settlement from Rugby Australia in December after claiming he had been discriminated against on the basis of religion.
The player has repeatedly reasserted his anti-LGBT+ beliefs by blaming the devil for transgender children and claiming that bushfires devastating Australia are “God’s judgment” for same-sex marriage.
Club chairman Bernard Guasch said the Catalans “want to give Israel a new opportunity to shine on the pitch”, telling L’Independant that the signing was “perhaps the biggest coup in the history of this sport”.
He said: “We will then savour the exemplary player he is. I know he will delight the Catalan public.
“We do not share or tolerate his opinions and we are totally committed to making our club and our sport open and welcoming to everyone.”
The player has allegedly taken a vow of silence on LGBT+ issues as a condition of his appointment,
Guasch has said any further anti-LGBT views from Folau would trigger an “immediate termination” of his contract – despite Folau’s previous public insistence that he would rather give up rugby than homophobia.