Rugby Australia has lashed out at Israel Folau for
disrupting the sport after an explosive letter accusing the governing body of
leaking details of his code of conduct hearing was made public.
Folau has launched legal action, seeking around AUS$5 million
in lost earnings as well as “substantial damages”. Many have predicted that
should he win the suit, the pay out could bankrupt the governing body.
But the row has rumbled on even further. The player lambasted the Rugby Australia board after Sydney’s Daily Telegraph ran a series of stories last week on his dramatic fall from grace for homophobic comments on social media.
The reports included intimate details of his tribunal hearing,
which was meant to be private.
Super Rugby’s record try scorer opted not to appeal against
the ruling that he was guilty of a “high level” breach of the sport’s
code of conduct and instead launched legal action, asserting he was simply
posting a message from the Bible.
In his letter, which was also obtained by the Telegraph and published on Saturday evening, Folau alleged that Rugby Australia was the source of the leaks, which he called “blatantly unfair”.
He further said that he did not feel he would get a fair
hearing should he appeal.
“I decided not to ‘appeal’ the panel’s finding because I wasn’t confident you would treat me fairly if I did. This week’s media shows that my instincts were right,” Folau said after opting instead to take the matter directly to the Fair Work Commission.
Rugby Australia labelled liars
However, in an e-mail reportedly sent to RA’s board of directors,
Folau wanted to know how the details of the hearing became public and accused
the governing body of lies.
“I would like to know why Rugby Australia has not managed to maintain the integrity of its processes and ensure that information was kept private and confidential,” he said.
“For example, I am not ‘sick of rugby’ and whoever told the media that I am is telling lies.
“Another example is the way the media has been told that your expectations were made clear to me by Ms (Raelene) Castle. We all know that is far from the truth,” he added, referring to Rugby Australia’s chief executive.
“It makes me sad that these things have apparently been told to the media by someone at Rugby Australia. If you are not the source, why has no one come out to set the record straight?”
RA hit back at Folau
Rugby Australia hit back in a statement, saying the
“media campaign” being run by Folau’s camp was affecting all levels
of rugby and had overshadowed a crunch Super Rugby match between the Waratahs –
Folau’s former team – and the Brumbies in Sydney.
“Rugby Australia has acted with complete professionalism and integrity at all times through the process in which Mr. Folau was found by an independent three-member tribunal panel to have made multiple, serious breaches of the Professional Players Code of Conduct,” it said.
“While we will continue to respond to any legal action as required and will continue to defend the values that underpin our game and the work done by the hard working volunteers, we will not engage in a running media commentary.”
Former Wallaby urges Folau to back up his promises
Rod Kafer, who played 12 times for australia and over 100
times for New South Wales, urged Folau to quit the sport – like he promised.
“The great shame is that this is a guy who we all respected and loved as a player.
“He said in the PlayersVoice, in his own words, talked about his conversation with Raelene Castle and said ‘if I’m damaging the game I would walk away from my contract immediately.’
“Israel, you’re damaging the game.
“It is just, to me, a man who I believe has great faith but he is really, really damaging the game.
“At some point you’ve got to live the words that you say with action.
“He should walk away.”
Folau’s Instagram post that “Hell awaits” gays and others he considers sinners sparked heated debate in Australia, with some defending his right to express views he sees as central to his religious beliefs.
Additional reporting by AFP.