Israel Folau’s landmark code of conduct hearing will continue tomorrow after almost eight hours of legal jousting wasn’t enough to resolve the dual international’s bitter dispute with Rugby Australia.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika made an intriguing appearance at RA headquarters today as Folau fought to save his career after being issued with a “high- level” breach notice last month.
RA chief executive Raelene Castle threatened to tear up his four-year, $4 million contract following the superstar fullback’s latest round of inflammatory social media posts.
Folau took to Instagram to proclaim “hell awaits drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators” unless they repent and turn to Jesus.
He had been warned last year following a similar post claiming gays were destined for hell, before signing a rich contract extension in October.
Cheika wasn’t expected at the hearing, but cut a conspicuous figure driving out of the RA car park early on Saturday afternoon.
After saying three weeks ago that he wouldn’t be able to pick Folau for Australia again “as it stands right now”, Cheika’s latest sighting raised the prospect of a possible peace offering.
Cheika, Folau and Castle all provided oral evidence and no more witnesses are expected to be called upon on Sunday.
Folau arrived at the hearing at 9am, his Audi piercing a posse of TV cameras, photographers and reporters as it made its way through to the underground car park.
The three-times John Eales Medallist departed, smiling, at 5.30pm after his high-profile solicitor Ramy Quatami and leading barrister
Adam Casselden spent the entire day pleading Folau’s case against having his contract ripped up.
Folau’s team was expected to argue that RA did not include a specific social media clause in his new contract and that his posts were merely passages from the Bible and not his direct words.
Justin Gleeson SC is heading up RA’s case and likely to contend that Folau had seriously breached not only the governing body’s code of conduct policy but also its inclusion policy.
While Folau won’t be required on Sunday, the three-person panel comprising of chair John West QC, RA representative Kate Eastman SC and the Rugby Union Players’ Association-elected John Boultbee must return to continue presiding over one of the most significant legal battles in Australian sport’s history.
RA maintains the panel will not deliver a decision until next week after mulling over all evidence from both parties.
If the tribunal determines that Folau has in fact breached his contract, the panel must then decide if the breach was severe enough to terminate his career.
Both Folau and Rugby Australia will have until 72 hours after any decision is handed down to appeal.
They may appeal because of an error of law; or it’s deemed the decision was unreasonable or insupportable having regard to the evidence on which it was based; and/or that the penalty imposed was manifestly inadequate or unjust.
Employment law experts predict the case could drag on for months and even years if a settlement isn’t reached and the matter winds up in the courts.