'No choice': Israel Folau's contract terminated in landmark verdict

Wallabies superstar Israel Folau has had his four-year, $4 million contract with Rugby Australia terminated because of his controversial social media posts about gays and other so-called “sinners” he believes are destined for hell.

A three-person independent panel announced their verdict on Friday – 10 days after deciding Folau had committed a “high-level” breach of RA’s professional players’ code of conduct.

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The Wallabies’ only three-times player of the year and Super Rugby’s all-time leading try-scorer has 72 hours to appeal and force the governing body into proceeding with a second code of conduct hearing.

After being formally warned last year for similar anti-gay posts, Folau took to Instragram last year proclaiming homosexuals and other so-called “sinners” were destined for hell unless they repented.

Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle said it was a sad day for Australian rugby but that Folau had left the governing body with no alternative than to seek termination of his contract.

Israel Folau in action for the Wallabies. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
Israel Folau in action for the Wallabies. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

“We want to stress that this outcome is a painful situation for the game,” Castle said on Friday.

“Rugby Australia did not choose to be in this situation, but Rugby Australia’s position remains that Israel, through his actions, left us with no choice but to pursue this course of action.

“This has been an extremely challenging period for Rugby and this issue has created an unwanted distraction in an important year for the sport and for the Wallabies team.

“But our clear message to all Rugby fans today is that we need to stand by our values and the qualities of inclusion, passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork.

“I’ve communicated directly with the players to make it clear that Rugby Australia fully supports their right to their own beliefs and nothing that has happened changes that.

“But when we are talking about inclusiveness in our game, we’re talking about respecting differences as well.

RA boss Raelene Castle and Israel Folau. Image: Getty
RA boss Raelene Castle and Israel Folau. Image: Getty

“When we say rugby is a game for all, we mean it. People need to feel safe and welcomed in our game regardless of their gender, race, background, religion, or sexuality.

“We thank the tribunal panel for their decision and we respect the time, consideration and expertise the panel members brought to this process.

“Representing Australia and all Australians on the Rugby field is a privilege.

“Selection is dependent upon a player’s ability to contribute to the Wallabies, and the game of Rugby itself, in a positive and consistent manner both on and off the field.

“When players sign a contract with the Wallabies, they sign up to the values of the team and the sport.”

Castle commended Folau as a “great rugby player”.

“We are disappointed and saddened by the fact that he will not see out his four-year commitment to the Wallabies and Waratahs,” she said.

Since announcing Folau’s breach on May 7, the panel had been considering written submissions from both the player’s legal team and Rugby Australia.

Folau has 72 hours to appeal and force a second code of conduct hearing, meaning the most divisive matter in Australia could drag on for weeks and months yet.

However The Telegraph reported on Friday that Folau is almost certain to skip another code of conduct hearing and take the matter straight to the Supreme Court, a move that could spell financial disaster for RA.

‘Satan’s work’

On Sunday, Folau revealed how he resisted the “temptation” of a peace offering from RA that would have allowed him to resurrect his playing career.

The troubled Wallabies star described his fallout with the governing body as “challenging” and spoke of being tempted by the “opportunity” to rekindle his career with the NSW Waratahs and Wallabies during a Sydney church address.

It’s understood Super Rugby’s all-time leading try-scorer would have been allowed to resume playing again had he agreed to take down his latest controversial post.

But, in a video of him speaking at a church service on Sunday afternoon, Folau said that’s the way Satan works.

“There have been many opportunities to potentially make the situation a little bit easier. I could go back and play the game, get everything back to the way it used to be,” Folau said.

“The way Satan works is he offers you stuff that could look good to the eye and makes you feel comfortable, and if you follow that path all the worries and troubles will go away.

“(But) it is always the will of God that comes first.”

with AAP