Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was one of many to testify at
a high-stakes code of conduct hearing as Israel Folau challenged Rugby
Australia’s intention to tear up his lucrative contract over homophobic
The devoutly religious fullback was informed last month of plans to terminate his multi-year, multi-million-dollar deal after he posted on social media that “hell awaits” gay people.
Submissions and evidence were heard behind closed doors by a
three-member panel chaired by John West, an employment law expert and senior
It will decide what punishment, if any, is appropriate
– ranging from a fine to a suspension,
or the sack. Either way, Rugby Australia said a decision was not expected this
Arguments in the Folau case
Folau was set to argue that Rugby Australia did not include
a specific social media clause in the four-year contract he signed in February
and his posts were merely passages from the Bible and not directly his words.
The governing body was expected to counter that even if
there was no clause, he seriously breached its broader code of conduct policy
and its inclusion policy.
The player was likely to argue that rugby’s “inclusion
for all” should also take into account strong religious beliefs.
Verdict date: Folau’s legal case expected to drag on
Legal experts said the case would almost certainly go to an
appeal whichever way it went, and then potentially to the courts for a lengthy,
and costly, fight that could set a precedent for how much control sporting
bodies have over athletes’ public pronouncements
“The Folau case may eventually involve not only RA’s code of conduct but also aspects of contract law, anti-discrimination laws and employee rights under the Fair Work Act,” said Carabetta.
“The case may well have a very long way to run.”
Cheika’s stance on the Folau saga
The controversy has overshadowed Australia’s World Cup
preparations, with Cheika vowing not to pick Folau again after his
“When you play in the gold jersey we represent everyone in Australia, everyone,” Cheika said after the row exploded. “Everyone that is out there supporting us, we don’t pick and choose.”
But Cheika’s comments are reportedly left the dressing room divided. Some players fully support Folau while others have threatened ‘strike action’ should the player return.
Where to now in the Folau saga
As mentioned, the case is likely to drag on now.
There’s no set date for a verdict yet, but ex-Aussie international Justin Harrison predicted “some sort of transaction” to take place. Speaking on Fox Sport, he was quoted as saying:
“There’s certainly going to be some sort of transaction taking place, whether it’s a termination or an agreement between the parties,” Harrison said.
“I think it’s important to recognise that there’s a fair process being commenced today and that’s going to play out and we have to have faith in whatever legal system that we’ll be relying on to set a precedent moving forward.
“To get some sort of social media policy in place for the collective bargaining agreement for players, because it’s certainly an issue that’s not going to go away.
“There’s no question this is not going to be resolved quickly.
“There’s too many parties that have other interests, besides just the player and the code at heart now, so unfortunately it’s going to drag on longer than any of us want to see.”
Other Aussie media outlets report that Rugby Australia was confident that it’d win the case.