Former Batley Bulldogs and Wakefield Trinity forward Keegan Hirst blasts signing of Israel Folau by Catalans Dragons

Israel Folau
Israel Folau

FORMER BATLEY Bulldogs and Wakefield Trinity forward Keegan Hirst has condemned Catalans Dragons’ decision to sign controversial winger Israel Folau.

FORMER BATLEY Bulldogs and Wakefield Trinity forward Keegan Hirst has condemned Catalans Dragons’ decision to sign controversial winger Israel Folau.

Keegan Hirst, centre

Keegan Hirst, centre

The 30-year-old Australian was booted out of rugby union last year after claiming “hell awaits” gay people. He has signed a one-year contract and could feature when Catalans visit Wakefield Trinity for their first away game of the season on Sunday, February 9.

In a post on social media, Hirst – Britain’s only openly gay professional rugby league player – said he is “shocked and disappointed” by Folau’s return to league. The Halifax front-rower added: “Our great game is tasked with fighting against homophobia and standing up for the values it puts such high stock in. It shows none of the bravery, camaraderie or integrity [the RFL] expects from its players, staff and fans.”

In a later post, Hirst continued: “Just FYI, this has nothing to do with beliefs. It has everything to do with homophobia. There are millions of people practicing their religion who are not homophobic. Prejudice is prejudice and using religion, political beliefs or anything else to justify it is not ok.”

Within moments of Folau’s signing being confirmed, Wigan Warriors announced that their home game against Catalans in March will be ‘Pride Day’ in support of the LGBTQ+ community.

Super League executive chairman Robert Elstone said the organisation has no authority to veto the registration of players, but insisted: “Super League deplores the homophobic comments Israel Folau has made in the past, which squarely contradict our sport’s core values.

“I have sought the opinion of informed voices connected to our game and the majority share my disappointment that one of our clubs has chosen to sign him.

“There is a strong feeling that the decision to sign him lets down many people connected to our sport.”

The Rugby Football League stressed: “However distasteful his previous comments, we don’t believe that, under our current regulatory framework, these can prevent his participation in the sport.”

Dragons chairman Bernard Guasch said his club “do not share or condone” Folau’s views and pledged the player will be sacked if he steps out of line.”