Aussie chief will not sanction Folau's NRL return

MELBOURNE • Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter Beattie has poured cold water on the prospect of sacked Wallaby Israel Folau returning to the National Rugby League (NRL).

News Corp Australia reported yesterday that NRL clubs had inquired about the possibility after his four-year Rugby Australia (RA) contract was torn up last month for a homophobic social media post.

However, Beattie insisted the league would not sanction his return, saying: "We are an inclusive game with respect for all. Israel has social media posts online that go against what our game stands for.

"As it stands, he will not be considered for registration."

Folau, who is known as a fundamentalist Christian, was sacked by RA and his Super Rugby club, New South Wales Waratahs, for posting that hell awaits "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers" and other groups.

The post remains on his Instagram account and has gathered over 70,000 likes.

The 30-year-old started his professional career in the NRL, playing 91 games for the Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos. After a less successful two-year stint in Australian Rules Football, he switched codes to rugby union in 2013.

The full-back has scored 37 tries in 73 Tests, been named the Wallabies' Player of the Year a record three times and was set to be a key part of his country's Rugby World Cup squad in Japan later this year.

Yet after being found guilty of breaching RA's code of conduct with his social media post, he declined a chance to appeal against his termination, claiming he had "no confidence" in the governing body's judicial process.

But Folau had been expected to continue his fight against his termination in court and The Australian Financial Review yesterday reported he had engaged law firm Macpherson Kelley to handle his case, with a legal challenge set to be filed by the end of this week.

It would involve claims of breach of contract and unlawful termination under the Fair Work Act, which protects employees from being sacked because of their religion.

The firm's head of employment, George Haros, said: "We believe Rugby Australia and the Waratahs have acted unfairly and unlawfully in their treatment of Israel.

"Israel has several options available to him at this point, and we are considering his next steps."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2019, with the headline 'Aussie chief will not sanction Folau's NRL return'. Print Edition | Subscribe