St George Illawarra Dragons’ three reasons that aborted signing Israel Folau


It is understood the NRL wanted to see copies of Folau’s contracts with Rugby Australia and Catalans, as well as relevant reports from human resources. The Dragons felt they were being buried in paperwork.

Just how far were they prepared to go? The past two years of backing Jack de Belin has been tough enough. Would they now do the same for Folau, who wasn’t even on their books?

Israel Folau wanted to return to the NRL via the Dragons.Credit:Getty Images

The second reason was pride, which some at the embattled joint venture still have, thankfully.

They baulked when they realised Folau’s manager, Wayne Beavis, who also represents coach Anthony Griffin, had first shopped Folau to the Broncos and Titans.

That makes sense: Folau returned to Australia just before Christmas because his mother-in-law, who lives in Brisbane, has fallen ill.

But some at the Dragons are old enough to remember a time when their club would never allow itself to be third cab off the rank, especially for a player who left the Wallabies high and dry on the eve of the World Cup.

The third reason came down to football, which was once a critical factor in signing a footballer.

When some of the experienced football people at the Dragons saw vision of Folau playing in the Super League for Catalans, they were dismayed.

Sure, Folau still moves like the wind, but defensively he looked out of place playing rugby league for the first time in a decade. The coaches at Catalans were concerned about his inclination to tackle low, a hangover from his time in rugby union.

The Dragons board weeks ago green-lighted the pursuit of Folau but, at an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday night, shelved the idea a day after the Herald broke the story about the negotiations.

What did it honestly expect? For it to be all rainbows and unicorns as the most divisive figure in Australian sport quietly slipped into a Red V jumper and popped up on the team sheet?

Folau looked off the pace defensively over the last season with Catalans.

Folau looked off the pace defensively over the last season with Catalans.Credit:Getty

Chief executive Ryan Webb seems like a good operator, but he’s inexperienced in rugby league matters and allowed the coach to take the running on Folau, although Griffin was ultimately over-ruled by the board. Perhaps the coach was trying to make a point about something in pursuing Folau.

At the very least, the events of this week stirred up the same old tired debate about why Folau should be allowed to play in the NRL.

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This next line will be unpopular but I believe there’s a place for Folau in the game. Nobody deserves a red line through their name forever.

But it can only happen after he shows some genuine understanding of how damaging his views about homosexuality can be. Social media clauses and verbal promises are not enough.

But it’s not being inclusive if you stop him from playing!

“Inclusiveness” does not include letting people into the tent who want to exclude others. Or, in Folau’s case, saying they will burn in hell for something they do not have a choice over. By that reckoning, the game must allow Nazi sympathisers and card-carrying members of the KKK into its competition all in the name of “inclusiveness”.

But we let people with criminal records waltz back into the game!

Players like Matt Lodge spent three years on the sidelines, or in lower grades, as well as undergoing psychological analysis and courses and what not. It might be box-ticking, sure, but he didn’t just walk back into the NRL as the Dragons had hoped with Folau.

Revelations about the Dragons’ interest in Folau predictably sparked interest from other clubs wanting to sign him.

The NRL won’t say it publicly but it hopes the events of this week mean they, too, will quietly drop off.

Brady’s Buccs

When people talk about the greatness of Tom Brady, they speak of his record, his longevity, his greatness, if he’s better than Jordan or Tiger and so on.

After guiding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Super Bowl on Monday morning against Kansas City Chiefs, much of the talk is also about Bill Belichick, who alongside Brady took the New England Patriots to nine Super Bowls, six championships and 17 division titles.

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick after another Super Bowl victory.

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick after another Super Bowl victory.Credit:AP

Somehow, there’s a belief Belichick’s legacy has been diminished because of Brady’s instant success at a new franchise, which is odd logic.

When I think about Brady, I think of two very expensive nosebleed seats at NRG Stadium in Houston in 2017.

The downside of being part of the large throng of international press to cover a Super Bowl is you sit high in the stands in makeshift workstations. The upside is you are part of the fanatical mob in the fun seats.

For this match, between the Patriots and Atlanta Falcons, the press benches were located right next to Patriots fans, who, I have to say, are as riotous as Argentinian football fans, who are positively cray-cray.

Those nosebleeds seats cost no less than US$5000. Each.

When the Falcons took at 28-3 lead in the third quarter, the two dejected Pats fans sitting adjacent to me got up and left.

“This game’s over,” moaned one. “It’s over.”

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I kept glancing across at those vacant seats as Brady engineered the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.

Until then, no side had turned around a 10-point deficit yet there was an eerie inevitability about it all as the Patriots scored the touchdown and then two-point conversion to send the match into overtime, which they promptly won 34-28.

Nothing was stopping Brady that night, let alone a 25-point deficit.

“That’s exactly how we hadn’t planned it,” he laughed in the media conference afterwards.

Meanwhile, spare a thought for the two fans sitting in an Uber, watching on their mobile phones as Brady and the Pats completed one of sport’s greatest revivals.

Keeping up with the Johns’

After an off-season contemplating the big issues of life and rugby league — in that order — Matty Johns returns to the airwaves on Friday morning with his show Morning Glory on SEN1170.

He will be joined by brother Andrew and your humble columnist, from 9am to noon. The seven-second delay button is expected to get a thorough workout.

The week

THE QUOTE
“And I go, ‘Don’t f—ing talk to my husband.’ And he looks at me and he goes, ‘Sit the f— down, bitch.’ And I go, ‘Don’t f—ing call me a bitch. You sit the f— down. Get the f— out of here. Don’t f—ing talk to my husband like that.’” — An ejected fan explains her pleasant courtside conversation with LeBron James. I love the f—ing NBA.

THUMBS UP
Héritier Lumumba, take a bow. As Adam Goodes found out, it’s not easy to stand up to racism in the AFL but the former Collingwood player has continued to call it out, including a nice old square up of dopey Eddie McGuire, who described the discovery of systematic racism at his club as a “proud day”.

THUMBS DOWN
Eating, it has been claimed on many a big night out, is cheating. On a golf course, Patrick Reed seems to find multiple ways to bend the rules of the royal and ancient game, the latest coming at the Farmers Insurance Open.

It’s a big weekend for … the entire sport of tennis, not knowing whether matches will be played as the proverbial Sword of Damocles hangs over its weary head because of this wretched thing called COVID-19. You may have heard about it.

It’s an even bigger weekend for … the Sydney Sixers, who have been on the road all summer because of aforementioned COVID-19 malarkey but now, suddenly, find themselves back home at the SCG for the final of the Big Bash League.

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Pilots eject from Super Hornet in aborted take-off at Amberley RAAF Base outside Brisbane


A $75 million Air Force jet has hit the runway during an aborted take-off at the Amberley RAAF Base outside Brisbane.

Witnesses have told the ABC they saw pilots eject from a F/A-18F Super Hornet as it was about to take off from RAAF Base Amberley.  

Photos from the scene suggest the Super Hornet has suffered some damage to its forward starboard fuselage.

Analysis of photos suggests the plane has a collapsed nosewheel, or the nosewheel is in a drain.

A Defence Department spokesperson said the aircrew of the aircraft were safe and no other personnel were involved in the incident.

The RAAF Super Hornet (circled) appeared to have crashed on the runway at RAAF base Amberley.(Supplied)

“Defence will provide more information once the immediate actions associated with the incident are completed.

“The cause of the incident is not known at this time and will be subject to investigation.”

The plan was taking off from south to north.

Plane only a decade old

Australia has 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets, based out of Amberley approximately 20km west of Brisbane.

They entered operation in December 2012 and have participated in a range of exercises and operations including Operation OKRA in the Middle East.

Defence says the Super Hornets “ensure that Australia’s air combat capability edge is maintained until the full introduction of the F-35A Lightning II”.

Australia is due to accept another 15 F-35s in 2021, as part of a $17 billion deal to eventually acquire 72 of the newer jets.

But the F-35 program has been beset by delays exacerbated by the pandemic.



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