Fines no longer cut the mustard with Folau. picture: AAP
Fines no longer cut the mustard with Folau. picture: AAP

Enough is enough: Folau must be sacked

THE trust is gone, so where else can Rugby Australia go from here other than to sack Israel Folau?

When RA began negotiations with Folau on a new contract last year, which was finally signed off in February for $4 million over four years, there were internal fears that the player was "a ticking time bomb".

As in, nobody could be sure if he'd espouse the damaging religious rhetoric that attacked homosexuals and plunged rugby into crisis.

Time to go: Rugby Australia can no longer stand by Israel Folau. Picture: AAP
Time to go: Rugby Australia can no longer stand by Israel Folau. Picture: AAP

After all the angst Folau caused last year with his social media posts, threats from sponsors of pulling out, an outcry from the public, RA did nothing.

They didn't sanction Folau because he was expressing his religious beliefs. It was dangerous territory and they feared impinging on an employee's rights to express themselves.

But it was agreed, by Folau, that his wording was not respectful of people who identify as homosexual or transgender.

It was with this agreement that RA undertook the new contract negotiations.

While Folau was on $1.2 million a year in his previous deal, $200,000 of that was paid for by private backers through the Australian Rugby Foundation. They declined to renew their support for Folau this time.

Israel Folau re-signed at a reduced rate to stay with Rugby Australia. Picture: Getty
Israel Folau re-signed at a reduced rate to stay with Rugby Australia. Picture: Getty

So RA told Folau he'd have to take a pay cut, given his marketing potential had nosedived because of the 2018 controversy.

Many at RA had wanted to sign Folau for just one year, ensuring he'd be available for the Wallabies' World Cup campaign but expendable beyond that should he continue his religious crusade.

But Folau was adamant on a long-term deal, and after accepting an overall pay cut of $800,000, RA agreed to re-sign him through to the end of 2022.

RA chief executive Raelene Castle, heavily criticised last year for her failure to act against Folau, sought assurances from him that any social media posts regarding his beliefs remain non-offensive.

Folau agreed.

Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle was criticised for not punishing Folau in 2018. Picture: Getty
Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle was criticised for not punishing Folau in 2018. Picture: Getty

Then he was back at it on Wednesday, not only telling homosexuals, but "sinners" of all kinds that hell awaits. Adulterers, liars, drunks, fornicators and homosexuals - Folau reminding us again that he believes homosexuality is a choice to be corrected.

Beyond the financial hit that RA is threatened with now, is a more worrying ethical aspect to this saga.

When Folau made his posts last year, numerous gay people shared stories of how attitudes such as his had made them attempt or contemplate suicide.

One woman in New Zealand wrote of how she'd been bashed for being gay, complete with a photo of her brain scan that showed permanent damage.

Folau also left his Waratahs teammates in the lurch.

Folau has left Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson in a tough spot. Picture: Getty
Folau has left Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson in a tough spot. Picture: Getty

He refused to front the media to explain his actions, leaving coach Daryl Gibson and the playing group to answer on his behalf.

Teammates had to shield Folau from Kiwi reporters at Christchurch airport last year before their match against the Crusaders.

It was a huge distraction for the team and there's no doubt plenty of NSW players dropped their heads into their hands on Wednesday night.

On the back of all of this experience, Folau chose to repeat his actions.

Religious fanatics like Folau - and those working silently behind him - believe that the public backlash only proves the existence of the devil, and how God intends for those who spread the word to be attacked.

The criticism does not deter them; it emboldens them.

Fines no longer cut the mustard with Folau. picture: AAP
Fines no longer cut the mustard with Folau. picture: AAP

Imposing a fine on Folau will not win back the trust.

Suspending him will not win back the trust.

Either of those scenarios would only lead to rugby authorities nervously sitting back bracing for Folau to fire up his thumbs again.

And all the while, sporting patrons and the wider public will shake their heads at the lack of action, the failure to stand up to society's standards, and walk away from rugby.

No. It's time for rugby to walk away from Folau.



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