By JAMIE PANDARAM, The Australian.
There is expected to be unanimous support from the three-person panel to sack Israel Folau over his code of conduct breach, even though termination of a contract can still be enforced on a two-to-one vote.
The panel’s decision is expected to be handed down either tomorrow or Thursday, given that panel chairman John West QC has been travelling overseas, and fellow panel members Kate Eastman SC, and John Boultbee AM are also working on other cases.
The panel does not have to be unanimous in its decision, although given Folau has shown no remorse and given no guarantee he won’t repeat actions that the panel members have already found it to be a high-level breach of Rugby Australia’s professional players’ code of conduct, the trio are all expected to enforce his axing.
Folau said at the weekend that an offer made to him to take down his offensive Instagram post was a deal from Satan, and he would not comply.
The Wallabies star believes the world is nearing an end and wants to continue to spread his Christian messages, and could not guarantee during his hearing that he would refrain from posting further inflammatory material.
The panel has the option of handing Folau a fine or suspension or both, but understands this will put his employer in an impossibly difficult situation.
It’s understood the three panellists are each writing their own judgments, and then will meet together to review all the content and compile a combined final judgment.
The last time there was a high-level breach of the code of conduct was in 2014, when Rugby Australia, then known as the Australian Rugby Union, attempted to have Kurtley Beale sacked for sending a pornographic image to staff member Di Patston.
Boultbee was also on the panel for that case, along with chair Mark Williams SC and ARU barrister Dominic Villa.
That panel had heavily weighed up sacking Beale but in the end, one panel member felt the player was not guilty.
On the basis of a two-to-one vote, they instead resolved to fine Beale $45,000, saving his career. During his hearing, Beale had expressed great remorse for his actions and vowed not to repeat them.
The opposite is true for Folau, leaving his future in tatters.
He gave a church sermon on Sunday saying he is convinced God is stripping him of his material possessions for a greater purpose.
Having rejected a $1 million settlement prior to his hearing, Folau will receive nothing if his contract is terminated.
He and his legal team can appeal, and front a new hearing with three different panel members, and that will continue to drain Folau’s money.
Billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest is interested in potentially signing Folau for his Global Rapid Rugby tournament next year.
The Tongan rugby league team have also said Folau would be welcome to play for them, although they can’t pay him.
Clubs in Europe and Japan are reluctant to sign Folau because he will not bow to any social media restrictions.
Folau is taking on a lead role at his church, and his netball star wife Maria indicated the couple may be dedicating their lives to that area, suggesting she will retire after this year’s World Cup to focus on areas that are more important than sport.