Hello and welcome back to the Sports Roundup! It’s been a massive couple of weeks in the sporting world, so let’s get straight into it!

Here are my Top 5 Sporting Moments of the Week:

5. The Tokyo Olympics are hanging by a strand. As each day passes, the chances of the Olympics taking place this year seem to reduce even more. Japanese and International Olympic Committee officials remain adamant that the 2020 games will go ahead in July and August. Still, some, such as Keith Mills, deputy chairman of the London 2012 Olympics, says the games should be cancelled. Cancelling the games would be an enormous disappointment for Japan, but they will look very different even if they do occur.

4. Australian Open Hotel Quarantine drama continues. Let’s be honest, most of the chaos over the hotel quarantine has been wildly exaggerated and mostly insignificant. Djokovic acted selfishly, wrote a letter to state that he was sorry, and then everyone moved on. Tennys Sangren called out preferential treatment for some athletes over others, and then everyone just moved on. Everything was looking fine until breaking news yesterday where a possible outbreak in Melbourne has forced more uncertainty and halted the play of many pre-Open tournaments.

3. Australia vs South African Test Series cancelled. It was a disappointing story to wake up to on Wednesday, as the eagerly anticipated Test Series between Australia and South Africa was cancelled due to the risk of COVID-19. This cancelled Test Series also has severe implications for the Australia team, who are now at risk of not qualifying for the inaugural World Test Championship at Lords in July. This would be a massive blow for Australia, as if there were able to beat India over the summer, they would have already qualified.

2. Manchester United destroy Southampton 9-0! It was a great day to be a Manchester United fan. After rising to the top of the Premier League, and then suffering a few tough losses, a 9-0 result against a reliable team such as Southampton was an incredible result. There were also 7 individual goal scorers which will provide the team with great confidence as the squad prepares for a challenging run of fixtures in the upcoming matchday’s

1. Frank Lampard sacked as Chelsea Manager. Chelsea had clearly lost patience with manager Frank Lampard who was brutally sacked midway through his second season in charge of the Premier League club. Lampard had immense pressure to perform after a $354 million spending spree in the transfer market, which set Chelsea up as title favourites. However, after recent results, the club decided to part ways with the former player, with former PSG boss Thomas Tuchel taking over the position.

Feature Article: The Return of Israel Folau?

It would have seemed impossible only a couple of years ago, but recent reports this week revealed that Israel Folau may return to Australia and the NRL. Let’s talk about how likely this is to happen, and whether this is the right decision for all people involved.

Firstly, for those unaware, Israel Folau is an elite athlete. He began his career in Rugby League before turning to Rugby Union and becoming a consistent and formidable member of the Wallabies. However, in 2019, he was sacked by Rugby Australia for homophobic posts on social media. If you’d like to hear my thoughts on that saga, here is an article I wrote back in 2019: https://thelevinelowdown.com/2019/05/17/israel-folau-sacked/.

Folau then moved overseas and signed with Super Leagues side Catalans Dragons and was rumoured to be signing with a French Rugby Union team this year. However, NRL team, the St George Illawarra Dragons, have been discussing the prospect of signing Folau to join the team for the 2021 season. Folau also indicated to St George Illawarra officials that he would agree to conditions limiting his ability to publicly express his religious beliefs if a two-year, $1 million deal was put on the table.

Back in 2019, I commended Folau for his courage in continuing to follow his beliefs, although it cost him his job. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely condemn his opinions and think his comments are very dangerous, but I could appreciate his steadfast approach to what he believes. Now, that’s what makes this rumour so strange. Apparently, Folau told the Dragons management that he had learned his lesson and would agree to keep his views and beliefs to himself. That doesn’t sound much like Folau to me.

Although, I am sure that Folau is willing to refrain from his usual antics, to secure any contract in Australia. Folau is still an elite athlete, only now entering the prime of his career, and an opportunity such as this could save his career. I certainly understand Folau’s desire to play in the NRL.

For the Dragons and the NRL, the decision to even begin discussions with Folau are strange. Yes, he is a great player, but the controversy surrounding his name is more than any athlete in Australia. He personally offended many communities, and although he may provide a few great performances for the NRL, it’s hard to see how that is worth the consistent criticism and chaos that would surround Folau back in the NRL.

Now, the deal seems to be in tatters after a tumultuous week. The Dragons released a brief statement withdrawing interest in the former Origin and Kangaroos star, providing no reason other than a broad two-sentence statement. It’s an embarrassing situation for the Dragons who must have expected the media storm to follow the initial announcement of the proposed transfer, but still, continued negotiations and then broke them off 48 hours later.

Although it’s a bad look for the Dragons, it’s the right decision in the long-term. Folau is too much to handle, and Folau doesn’t deserve to walk back into the NRL after his previous actions. If he is willing to come back and play reserve grade, and maintain control over his social media, I’m not opposed to a return in 2 or 3 years, but for now, this is the right decision.

Israel Folau played a phenomenal game of Rugby, however; the scores were level at full time. Unfortunately, extra time was a disaster. Folau consistently dropped the ball, conceded penalties and desert his team, losing the game for Australia. Instead of owning up to his mistakes in extra time, he ran away. Folau has tried to return, but the nature of that extra time performance is something that people will never forget.

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