“If I’m damaging the game, I would walk away from my contract immediately,” said Super Rugby’s all-time record try scorer. Instead, he is seeking $5m in lost earnings alongside “substantial damages,” totalling to a reported $10m. This has the potential to bankrupt Rugby Australia. Where is the consistency?
This evident contradiction was highlighted forcefully by Rod Kafer, with the former Wallabies international declaring, “at some point you’ve got to live the words you say with action… he should walk away.”
Now, regardless of your views on Folau’s initial series of social media outbursts, it is irrefutable that an independent three-member tribunal panel found him guilty of multiple, serious breaches of the Professional Players Code of Conduct. This is reality of the situation, and a reality Folau appears unwilling to accept.
He is now undoubtedly damaging the sport. Not only in terms of image and inclusivity, but also financially and on the field of play. Repeated homophobic outbursts aside, Waratahs captain Nick Phipps, after his sides disappointing defeat to the Brumbies, stated “we wanted to be making finals at the Waratahs this year and we haven’t really been given that opportunity to make it.”
Indeed, Phipps cited a palpable sense that the whole team was “on trial,” and expressed his extreme disappointment in Folau, labelling the entire debacle “very distracting and sad”. The Waratahs form has slipped towards the end of the regular season, and it is easy to empathise with Phipps’ statement; what team could remain unaffected by such a prolonged and public scandal?
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika echoed this sentiment, “the beliefs of the individual, the diversity inside the team whether it’s from where we come from, a lot of us from different lands, or our beliefs, inside the team that’s no problem. That’s accepted. It’s always been like that… It’s when it gets outside of the team and its starts to affect the team adversely from the outside that it becomes a problem.”
Ultimately, the decision by Rugby Australia to terminate Folau’s contract was neither surprising nor outrageous. A player guilty of contravening the terms of his contract on numerous different occasions cannot expect to be endlessly placated and appeased, regardless of his evident ability. What has become increasingly problematic is the saga that has followed.
In his pursuit of millions of dollars Folau has revealed the contractions and flaws in his position. He is undermining rugby in every way imaginable, causing a completely avoidable off the field distraction for his old teammates, and possibly ruining the finances of Rugby Australia. That is not even to mention the deep and widespread offence caused by his online homophobia.
“The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” That is Timothy 6:10. Folau is surely aware of this, yet in his dogmatic pursuit of lost earnings he is directly disregarding this critical element of his faith. Is his spiritual recompense not enough? Again, this should not surprise, for his hypocrisy has been consistent and manifold.
Written by Joe Ronan