Folau to ‘fight for career’ after anti-gay row
The deeply religious Folau held talks with Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle, a day after she said she intends to sack him for posting on Instagram that "Hell awaits" homosexuals.
Wallabies fullback Israel Folau is facing the sack by Australia’s rugby union over homophobic comments.. AFP/File/WILLIAM WEST
Wallabies star Israel Folau will fight to save his career after meeting with Australia’s rugby chief Friday, a report said, following a homophobia row that left him facing the sack just months before the World Cup.
The Sydney Daily Telegraph said the deeply religious Folau held talks with Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle, a day after she said she intends to sack him for posting on Instagram that “Hell awaits” homosexuals.
Folau, who was embroiled in a similar row last year, will be fired barring any “compelling mitigating factors”, Castle announced on Thursday.
Folau initially failed to respond to Rugby Australia, but the Telegraph said he had now met with officials from the governing body.
The tabloid said Folau was told his contract would be terminated but he is entitled to go through a code of conduct hearing first, a route he will take in a bid to keep playing.
Rugby Australia could not immediately be reached for comment by AFP.
Folau and his wife Maria surfaced Friday at a Sydney cafe with two other men, reportedly from the Rugby Union Players Association, but he refused to answer questions when approached by media.
Folau is a dual international who began his career in rugby league and there was speculation the sport could offer him a lifeline if he is kicked out of rugby union.
But Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter Beattie said he had failed the sport’s character test and would not get a contract.
“Israel Folau fails the NRL’s inclusiveness culture, which is a policy strongly supported by the ARLC,” Beattie told reporters.
“The ARLC therefore would not support his registration to play National Rugby League.”
Beattie acted swiftly as rugby league works to rebuild its own reputation with sponsors and supporters after the new season was overshadowed by a string of sex and alcohol scandals.
Folau, who has played 73 Tests and was seen as crucial for the Wallabies at this year’s World Cup in Japan, posted on Wednesday that “Drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators — Hell awaits you.”
He suggested they should “repent” as “only Jesus saves”.
It remained online Friday and had attracted more than 27,000 likes.
But it also sparked a searing backlash, including from key Wallabies sponsor Qantas, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and gay former Welsh star Gareth Thomas.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday called his comments “terribly insensitive”.
“You know it’s important that people act with love and care and compassion to their fellow citizens and to speak sensitively to their fellow Australians,” he added.
Drew Mitchell, a Wallabies team-mate of Folau’s at the 2015 World Cup, said he would have been fully aware of the potential fallout after the row over his similar comments last year.
“He’s put himself before the game, he’s put himself before his team-mates and I think he’s isolated himself to the point where there’s only one decision for Rugby Australia, where he has to go,” he told Fox Sports.
Folau has previously refused to back down from his extreme religious views, and footage of him preaching to fellow churchgoers last month, obtained by the Daily Telegraph, showed how deeply his opinions are held.
He attacked Christmas and Easter as “man-made” traditions followed by “heathens”.
“That’s another tradition that is man-made and we always have to go back to what the Bible says about what He (God) says,” Folau said in his address.
“God is clearly saying, ‘Do not follow the way of the heathen’, which is what he’s speaking of these people here, the custom. These people do it in vain. There’s no point to doing it.”
With Folau looking likely to miss the World Cup, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has a big hole to fill.
Few people can match his aerial prowess, with Dane Haylett-Petty shaping as the frontrunner to wear the No.15 jersey, although Kurtley Beale could also comfortably operate at fullback.