Raelene Castle spoke to media after Folau’s contract was torn up.
Raelene Castle spoke to media after Folau’s contract was torn up.

Folau appeal hits major setback

Israel Folau is looking at hitting back at Rugby Australia's termination but the tax man is set to provide an obstacle for the 30-year-old's legal hopes.

Folau's backers were looking to financially assist the fallen Wallabies star if he took Rugby Australia to the Supreme or Federal Court in a bid to overturn his axing.

But the ATO has told revealed to The Sunday Telegraph they will be monitoring donations to the former star with reports it could be funnelled through his church The Truth Of Jesus Christ Church, in Kenthurst, in order to get a tax deduction.

Reports suggest Folau's legal costs could be upwards of $1 million.

With Rugby Australia in a precarious financial position, reports over the past few weeks have seen the sport facing a $12 million hit pushing the code to the brink of collapse in Australia.

RA would face "financial ruin" if it is forced to face a projected $8 million loss and pay out the full $4 million owed to Folau in his long-term contract should the former Wallaby be successful in court.

According to reports, the legal fees and costs associated with fighting Folau in a conduct hearing and expected follow-up legal challenges through the courts will also cost RA at least $100,000.

A full $12 million hit would leave RA "on the precipice of insolvency," according to The Daily Telegraph's Jamie Pandaram.

Israel Folau’s four-year $4 million contract was torn up.
Israel Folau’s four-year $4 million contract was torn up.

Folau hit back after his $4 million four-year contract was torn up last night, setting in motion the inevitable challenge to the termination.

"It has been a privilege and honour to represent Australia and my home state of New South Wales, playing the game I love," he said.

"I am deeply saddened by today's (Friday's) decision to terminate my employment and I am considering my options.

"As Australians, we are born with certain rights, including the right to freedom of religion and the right to freedom of expression.

"The Christian faith has always been a part of my life and I believe it is my duty as a Christian to share God's word. Upholding my religious beliefs should not prevent my ability to work or play for my club and country."

Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle admitted there were no winners out of the Folau situation.

Speaking in a wide-ranging interview on Rugby.com, Castle said it had been a difficult time for everyone in the Rugby Australia community but that the organisation had to take a stand.

However, a loss in an appeal wouldn't end Rugby Australia, Castle said.

"I think it is an exaggeration to say it will imperil the game's finances - I don't believe that to be true," she said.

"Certainly I believe this is money that we could be spending on the rugby community and that's disappointing. Every dollar that we spend on legal fees is a dollar that we don't spend in the community.

"What I would say is that Israel also knew the implications. The first time around when he posted the first time and the implications for the wider game was something the tribunal took into consideration, both financial and also reputation from a disrepute perspective, when they got to the stage where they decided termination was the only option."

Raelene Castle said an appear or court proceedings wouldn’t crush Rugby in Australia.
Raelene Castle said an appear or court proceedings wouldn’t crush Rugby in Australia.

 

Folau's April 9 Instagram post was the third such post in recent memory, with another pair in 2018.

While he copped heat at the time, Folau kept his job, even re-signing a new four-year deal.

Castle said he deserved a second chance but that RA was going to learn from their mistakes.

"I think specifically having used the words 'hell' and 'gay', and the homosexual community, in the first post, we had specific conversations about the harm that it had caused the community and the offence it has caused to that community," she said.

"To use those very same words again, to create that same issue with that same community is something I was very surprised about, because it had been very clear from what I had said that we supported his strong religious view, in fact we were proud of his strong religious view, but he needed to express those in a respectful way."

Castle did admit RA hadn't added an extra clause regarding social media as the contract was under the collective agreement and "you can't add clauses that are to the detriment of the player".

But RA did give Folau and his manager a letter as well as a face-to-face meeting which detailed expectations of him on social media.

Once he made the Instagram post, Castle said it took 36 hours to get in touch with the star, and the decision was made to chase a termination of Folau's contract.

She also admitted the entire scandal could have been overcome with the posts being taken down and an apology within the first 24 hours.

Several Polynesian players have expressed concern with Folau's situation over the last month,

including Wallabies prospect Taniela Tupou, who tweeted: "Might as well sack me and all the other Pacific Islands rugby players around the world because we have the same Christian beliefs".

He attached a link to an earlier post from Wallabies teammate and Reds captain Samu Kerevi's Easter message which said "Jesus for dying on the cross for me. I love you Jesus" but felt the need to apologise after it was seen as support for Folau.

The 2019 Super Rugby and Wallabies internationals, including the Rugby World Cup, will be live and on demand on Kayo Sports for just $25 per month for two devices at once on Apple, Android and Telstra TV, for Apple and Google Android smartphones, on web browsers and via Google Chromecast Ultra devices. Click here for your free trial.

Castle said there will still be some work to do with the Polynesian players to explain why Folau's case is so different.

"I have spoken to a number of players myself and Scott Johnson and Michael Cheika have also spoken to players," she said. "And once they understand and it is explained to them the differentiation of what Israel did versus what they want to do, there is no issue.

"Rugby Australia for a very long time have been supportive of the multicultural nature of our game, both within our playing groups and also in our wider rugby community. And that's really important, that everyone can feel safe in that environment and express their views, be (they) religious, be race, be creed, background, different nations coming together to play rugby."

"I am very confident that our players of faith feel comfortable expressing their faith and will continue to do so, as we have seen over the last couple off weeks."


City pauses to remember our heroes for Remembrance Day

City pauses to remember our heroes for Remembrance Day

A small crowd gathered at The Workshops Rail Museum

Ipswich youngster's mission to save for a house deposit

Ipswich youngster's mission to save for a house deposit

Eight-year-old saves more than $1500 towards his first-home deposit

Program gives motoring independence to young drivers

Program gives motoring independence to young drivers

The PCYC is helping young drivers get their licence