Folau faces more scrutiny after refusing to take knee before Saints’ rout of Catalans
Israel Folau’s contentious refusal to take the knee overshadowed Super League’s restart as the competition returned after a hiatus of almost five months.
Already an outcast in his homeland after being sacked by Rugby Australia in May 2019 for a social media post claiming “hell awaits” gay people, the Catalans Dragons centre and fundamentalist Christian came under renewed scrutiny here. As every other St Helens and Dragons player took the knee shortly before kick-off, Folau stood on the right-hand touchline – the lone dissenting figure in failing to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Super League told its clubs that the competition would be following football in taking the knee and Dragons coach Steve McNamara said: “As a club, as a group of players and coaching staff, we spoke about it in depth beforehand. As a club we are completely against racism and all for equal opportunity. But there were some players and staff who made the decision not to take the knee. That was based on personal choice and we decided we would respect anyone’s personal choice on the matter.”
After his rugby union career ended in disgrace last year, Folau was barred from returning to rugby league in the NRL. A storm brewed when he was allowed to join Catalans at the start of the Super League season earlier this year. The 31-yearold was warned that any further controversy would result in his contract being terminated.
McNamara’s team were comprehensively beaten by defending champions St Helens, who included the returning James Graham in their side. Lachlan Coote scored and then set up James Bentley before Zeb Taia made it 16-0. A second Coote try and a Tommy Makinson score followed, with James Maloney replying before Alex Walmsley underlined St Helens’ superiority.
Stance rejected: Israel Folau was the only player to stand, rather than take the knee