Unrepentant Folau refused chance to save career
AN unrepentant Israel Folau was given numerous opportunities to save his rugby career but refused.
Before and during his code of conduct hearing, Folau could not make any guarantees he would refrain from making further social media posts targeting the gay community if he was kept on by Rugby Australia, and refused to take down the April 10 Instagram post that could have saved him from termination.
Folau was advised that if he removed the offending post, saying that homosexuals and other sinners were destined for hell unless they repented, it would show remorse and therefore his code of conduct breach could only be classed in the low to mid-level.
The 30-year-old remained adamant he would not take down the post because he was not remorseful - it still remains on his page - and therefore he was charged with a high-level breach.
Some in Folau's own team were left exasperated by his unshakeable stance, but the superstar reiterated that he did not post the message with malice but love.
A high-level breach is the only one that allows pursuit of contract termination, which RA is seeking.
Folau was cross examined by lawyers at the hearing and repeatedly given the opportunity to guarantee he would not make posts in future that did not specifically target the gay community.
Folau replied with words to the effect that he would not back down. Folau said he would "not change" and he would still post his religious beliefs on Instagram.
A three-person panel of John West QC, Kate Eastman SC, and John Boultbee AM found Folau had made a high-level breach of RA's professional players' code of conduct, in part because he showed no remorse and no guarantee he would stop.
Folau had been given a formal warning for similar remarks on social media last year which caused an outcry and sponsors threatened to walk out on RA.
Folau met with RA chief executive Raelene Castle, Waratahs boss Andrew Hore, and Wallabies coach Michael Cheika at the time, and discussed the post and reaction to it.
While the trio - who were all called to give evidence at the hearing - believe they made it clear to Folau what was and wasn't acceptable to post, Folau argued that it was never specifically outlined as to what he was barred from posting.
The panel has not yet decided upon a sanction for Folau - that is expected to be early next week.
However, their decision to deem Folau's actions a "high level breach" means termination is certainly on the table.
What is understood to have been factored in is if Folau escapes, and then makes another inflammatory post, he and RA will be forced to head down another costly code of conduct hearing in future.
The complex issues around religious freedom, vilification, workplace sanctions and the expressions of an individual as opposed to repeating religious scripture meant that the unprecedented hearing went for 22 hours over three days.
The panel is now also working through additional written submissions by both parties before they'll make a decision on Folau's fate.
If Folau's contract is terminated, it's expected he will appeal and another code of conduct hearing with three new panel members will be held.
If he is fined or suspended, RA will seek to work out a financial settlement with Folau so he can walk away.