Two NRL legends have launched an impassioned defence of controversial star Israel Folau as he looks set to be handed an NRL lifeline.
Two NRL legends have launched an impassioned defence of controversial star Israel Folau as he looks set to be handed an NRL lifeline.

‘Folau quoted a fictional book, get over it’: Willie Mason

Israel Folau has "done his time" and should be welcomed back to the NRL, league legends Willie Mason and Sam Thaiday said.

The pair backed Folau's return after it was revealed the St George Illawarra Dragons are set to lodge an application to the NRL to sign the triple-code star on a two-year deal starting this season.

"I'm glad he's allowed back, or they're trying to get him, he got ostracised and kicked out of our game and union for quoting a fictional book," Mason said.

"Get over it. I think he's done his time.

"The last 12 month, the beat-up that was happening just before he got sacked from the Wallabies - it was always going to happen because you can't beat the media.

"It was just too much noise there, too many people had a lot to say.

"He did the right thing by the game, by himself, he's been to the south of France, I've been there before, it's very cruisy down there and you can get away from a lot of things and just clear your mind.

"He's done his time. It's time to bring him back, and I'm glad league are doing it. [NRL chairman] Peter V'Landys has probably got a big part in that."

Folau had his $5 million Rugby Australia contract torn up in 2019 after posting anti-gay comments from the Bible.

He launched legal action against his employer, and the matter was settled with a confidential payout to Folau, believed to be around $4 million.

Israel Folau meets supporters after training with Catalan Dragons in Perpignan
Israel Folau meets supporters after training with Catalan Dragons in Perpignan

Folau then resumed his professional sporting career in France, paying for Catalans Dragons in the Super League, a tournament interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While he is contracted for another season, it's understood Folau wants to remain in Australia with wife Maria and their baby.

V'Landys had indicated at the time Folau was sacked - when it was revealed he was keen to return to the NRL - that the game would not allow him back due to his homophobic beliefs.

But Thaiday said: "I played rugby league with Israel Folau and I think we can only pass judgment on what he's going to do when he comes back to our game.

"I think there'll be a few things put in place when he comes back, if all things go ahead. [From] an entertainment point of view it's going to be great to see a player like him back in the NRL.

"We have to make sure, and continue to show, that our game is inclusive. And if push Israel Folau out, we're not being inclusive towards him.

"I'm sure Peter V'Landys will sit down with him at some point in time and they'll have a conversation about what it's going to look like going forward."

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Willie Mason and Sam Thaiday facing off ahead of the All Stars Fight Night. Picture: Richard Dobson
Willie Mason and Sam Thaiday facing off ahead of the All Stars Fight Night. Picture: Richard Dobson

Mason and Thaiday were speaking ahead of their heavyweight boxing bout on Friday week in Townsville.

The former Origin stars will slug it out over three two-minute rounds on the All Stars Fight Night on February 12.

"Two blokes having a good fight, we respect each other, respect the sport, we know it's a fight, we're not getting in there for sparring," Mason said.

"We'll get in there and have a dig, then get out of there and have a beer.

"That's it, six minutes of work. That's all I've been thinking about for the last six weeks, six minutes, six minutes."

Originally published as 'Folau quoted a fictional book, get over it'