NRL moves to veto Folau’s shock return
THE NRL is desperately trying to veto a shock bid for Israel Folau to return to rugby league this month with the Tongan Test side.
Tonga revealed a plan on Monday for Folau to play in Test matches against the Great Britain Lions in Hamilton, New Zealand on October 26 and Australia at Auckland's Eden Park on November 2.
The Tongan National Rugby League has registered former Wallaby Folau, who was sacked by Rugby Australia in May, and claimed the move had been approved by the Rugby League International Federation.
On Monday night, however, RLIF officials said Folau's return hadn't been accepted, with NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg contacting RLIF officials to block the move.
When contacted, RLIF deputy chairman Peter Beattie was unaware of the Folau development.
"The RLIF has made no decision in relation to any registration request for Israel Folau," Beattie said.
"As a current member and deputy chair of the RLIF board - as the ARLC representative - I can assure you that this has never been discussed or mentioned around the board table."
Folau was quoted in a Tongan Rugby League media statement confirming he had been approved to play.
"I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to represent God, my family, my heritage and the people of Tonga," Folau said in the statement. "I am thankful that the RLIF have accepted my availability to play."
A Tongan National Rugby League media statement quoted head coach Frank Endacott saying Folau's return was "great news" and he would "bring size, pace and skill to the team."
Yet when contacted on Monday night, Endacott had no idea about Folau representing Tonga, saying: "I haven't spoken to Israel Folau at all. He has apparently been talking to Tongan officials but I'm not aware of it."
It is unknown whether any member of the RLIF privately approved Folau's comeback to rugby league.
There has been an ugly power struggle in Tongan rugby league in the past month with players and board members at loggerheads.
Insiders suggest TNRL chairman George Koloamatangi may have prematurely announced Folau to win back some support and power.
Careful not to claim Folau's return had been accepted by the RLIF, Koloamatangi said: "I am sure the event managers will be rubbing their hands in expectation of more great international spectacles now that Israel has confirmed his availability."
Folau, a dual international, was sacked from his ARU contract after posting homophobic comments on his Instagram page.
Beattie,when ARLC chairman, supported the ARU's decision, precluding Folau from returning to rugby league.
Folau has taken Rugby Australia to court seeking up to $10 million, claiming his contract was unfairly terminated.
Representing Tonga would cap an extraordinary comeback to a code the former Broncos, Storm, Queensland and Kangaroos star sensationally quit in 2010 for AFL before switching to rugby union in 2013.
In the press statement, the TNRL confirmed coaching staff members had been talking "individually and confidentially" to Folau about a switch back to rugby league.
Tonga will also push for Folau's younger brother John, who played for Parramatta, to confront the Lions and Kangaroos. John switched to rugby union in 2014.
Israel and John would be ineligible to represent Tonga at the World Nines in mid-October given the tournament is governed by the NRL.
The TNRL statement quoted Folau saying: "I don't want to bring any of my personal matters into this and I am grateful that the IRLF have endorsed my availability.
"What I will do now is focus on playing great rugby league and do my talking on the field.
"Playing for the Kingdom is a great honour and all Tongans love their homeland, we should never let a dispute stop us from representing our great nation."
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