Israel Folau will fight for his future on May 4. Picture: AFP
Israel Folau will fight for his future on May 4. Picture: AFP

D-Day confirmed to decide Folau’s fate

THE first stage of what could turn out to be a protracted legal battle to decide the fate of controversial Wallaby fullback Israel Folau has been set, with Rugby Australia confirming his Code of Conduct hearing will commence on Saturday, May 4.

Sunday, May 5 has also been put aside as a reserve day in the event that the tribunal hearing stretches beyond the first day, with the written verdict not expected to be released for up to two more days.

Even then, that is unlikely to be the end of the matter with both sides able to appeal the committee's decision if they believe there are grounds that the verdict was unlawful or the penalty was too excessive or too lenient.

After that, there's also the option of going to court, where it could take years for the case to be decided given the varied and complicated issues involved, meaning all parties might need the patience of Job before the issue is finalised.

But for now, the first battle will take place at Rugby Australia's headquarters at Moore Park next month.

The three-member committee that will hear the case has already been decided with John West QC appointed as the independent chair alongside Rugby Australia's nomination Kate Eastman SC, and the Rugby Union Players' Association pick John Boultbee SC.

It's been billed as a landmark hearing for Australian sport, because it touches on a range of issues including freedom of speech, religious freedom, sexual discrimination and rights of employers.

Folau has been served notice that he breached the sport's Code of Conduct after a post on his social media account that proclaimed "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" would go to Hell unless they repent.

Rugby Australia's Integrity Unit has recommended Folau's four-year, $4 million contract be torn up because he had formally and repeatedly warned about making comments that were regarded as homophobic so his breach was regarded as high-level.

Folau is expected to argue that his postings were simply expressions of his long-held religious beliefs, which he says he is entitled to and stands by.

Under the terms of the Code of the Conduct, the burden of proof rests now with Rugby Australia to not only show that Folau broke the rules but that it was serious enough to be considered a high-level offence warranting termination.

News Corp Australia


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