The Sydney Morning Herald has revealed the comedy of errors that has left Rugby Australia on ‘shaky legal ground’ should they be given the green light to terminate Israel Folau’s contract.
The Waratahs and Wallabies superstar is expected to learn his fate this week, possibly as early as Thursday, after being found guilty of a high-level breach of Rugby Australia’s professional players’ code of conduct.
The independent three-member panel that deemed Folau’s controversial social media posts about homosexuals and other so-called “sinners” being destined for hell is considering written submissions from Folau’s legal team and the governing body.
But according to the Herald, two big oversights may have left RA in a vulnerable position should Folau appeal his impending sacking.
The Herald alleges that RA boss Raelene Castle aborted a last-minute attempt to get Folau to sign an ‘addendum’ to his new $4 million contract – one relating to social media – that “should have been included in the original contract he had signed a month earlier.”
“Castle wanted…to talk him around to agreeing to something someone had forgotten to include in the original contract Folau had signed on October 10,” Georgina Robinson writes.
Had Folau signed the addendum, RA would have been able to take action against Folau straight away and possibly avoid the messy aftermath.
However Castle also allegedly bypassed the Rugby Union Players’ Association (RUPA) in her attempt to add the new element to Folau’s contract, which according to the Herald is: “a crucial step required under the collective bargaining agreement that governs the RA’s interactions with its professional players.”
This means even if Folau had have signed the addendum, RA would have breached the CBA.
Social media makeover
As he awaits his fate, Folau has hinted that he knows the end is near.
On Tuesday night, Folau changed the profile picture on his Twitter and Instagram accounts.
While it had previously been a photo of him playing for the Waratahs – pointing to the sky after scoring a try – it’s now a pic of a large No.1 with the words ‘God first’ in the middle.
The fact that he’s ditched the photo of him playing rugby and replaced it with one about his faith could be seen as an act of defiance and a signal that he’s accepted his fate.
Termination of his four-year, $4 million contract seems likely, rather than a fine or suspension, after he rejected a peace offering from RA to remove his latest inflammatory post from Instagram and be allowed to play on.