Australian sports journalist Andrew Webster has taken a crack at Israel Folau, claiming the sacked rugby star wanted out of the sport anyway.
Folau’s four-year, $4 million contract was torn up on Friday in the wake of him posting a biblical quote on social media which said homosexuals would go to hell unless they repented.
Rugby Australia (RA) said they had to send a strong message after speaking to parents whose children idolised the Wallabies star, but were also struggling with their sexuality.
It was the second time Folau had sparked controversy through his social media accounts, he was also reprimanded for a similar post in 2018.
Openly gay Sydney Morning Herald chief sports writer Webster agreed with RA’s decision but suggested on Channel Nine’s Sports Sunday program that Folau’s actions may have been a deliberate way to severe ties with the sport.
Powerful stuff from Andrew Webster on the end, for now, of the Israel Folau saga.
— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) May 19, 2019
The journalist claims that people within the Wallabies set-up are convinced that after more than a decade of playing professional sport, the 31-year-old Folau’s desire to keep going had waned.
“He’s played three different codes, and they seem to think that the way that he has acted and the way that he was just such a renegade with this last social media post after what happened exactly a year ago, suggests to them in the Wallabies set-up that he just doesn’t want to play professional sport any more,” Webster said.
When questioned why Folau would go to such lengths to fight his axing from Rugby Australia, Webster points to money and his religious beliefs as to why the star couldn’t simply walk away from the game.
However, the journalist seemed ecstatic that the whole sorry saga was over – for now at least.
“Can I just say this though: See ya, Israel. See ya.
“I’m just so glad that this issue [is over]. I know it’s probably going to kick on in the courts, but it’s been such a ridiculous debate.
“The way Israel Folau has been positioned as a victim, that he’s been persecuted, as some modern-day Muhammad Ali in the last 10 days is just ridiculous.
“He’s not being vilified for his Christian beliefs. He’s being vilified for vilifying others. And to be honest, that’s it. That’s the debate and that’s where it ends.
Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle knew she had to sack Israel Folau after receiving “hundreds” of messages detailing how harmful his controversial social media posts were.
“Having been through the first one where we sat down and were very mature on both sides and recognising that everyone deserves to make a mistake … having had all those conversations he (Folau) said he understood where the line was,” Castle said.
“He still went ahead and posted, and there was no guarantee he wouldn’t post again.
“The posts are harmful, they are very harmful. I’ve had hundreds of people contact me about the specifics of the harm, it made them relive how they found it really difficult to come out.
“Parents of young children have contacted us saying ‘I’ve got a 15-year-old who really looks up to Israel and is struggling with his sexuality’.
“Those things are really difficult to hear and make it very real,” she said.
Castle said there was no attempt from either party to make peace through an apology or sanction that would have kept Folau in the game.
“We needed to stand up and say we’ve got values, we’re prepared to stand by them and we’ve got a player that’s not living by those values,” she said.
“It (the post) was causing harm and was against our values. We believe it was a direct breach of contract and we had no choice but to seek termination.”