Israel Folau’s Wallabies career appears increasingly in the balance after a Code of Conduct hearing concluded in Sydney today.
The story featuring one of the nation’s highest profile sports stars and his controversial social media posts has gripped Australia in recent weeks.
RA boss Raelene Castle issued Folau with a breach notice last month following his controversial social media posts about homosexuals and other sinners and threatened to terminate his four-year, $4 million contract, an option the panel now has.
Folau has missed the Waratahs’ last three game since being stood down by the NSW Rugby Union.
Now a Code of Conduct hearing made a judgement that he had “committed a high-level breach of the Professional Players’ Code of Conduct with his social media posts on April 10, 2019.”
A panel of John West QC (Chair), Kate Eastman SC, and John Boultee AM presided over the three-day hearing which commenced on May 4.
In a statement it said “The panel will now take further written submissions from the parties to consider the matter of sanction. A further update will be provided after the panel delivers its decision on sanction.”
Among the major rugby figures to appear before the hearing are RA chief executive officer Castle, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika and NSWRU boss Andrew Hore.
Folau reportedly rejected a $1 million offer to walk away from Australian rugby last week and is fighting to save the multi-million dollar, four-year contract he signed earlier this year.
Folau’s solicitor Ramy Quatami and barrister Adam Casselden have argued that Folau’s Instagram post claiming hell awaits homosexuals and other sinners unless they repent and turn to Jesus was merely a bible passage and not his direct words.
They also put foot forward the fact that RA didn’t include a specific social media clause when the John Eales Medallist signed a new contract in February.
But after being formally warned last year when he posted similar passages claiming gays were destined for hell, RA’s legal unit believes the 30-year-old has breached both the player code of conduct and its social media policies.
While Folau may yet be spared the sack, termination of his contract is now a possibility.
Had the panel deemed Folau’s breach of Rugby Australia’s players’ code of conduct anything less than “high level”, the governing body would not have had the power to boot the three-times John Eales Medallist out of the game.
Other lesser sanctions the 30-year-old now faces include suspension and/or a fine.
The sanction is not expected to be handed down for several days, with RA not offering a timeline on any decision.
Folau also has the right of appeal.
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