Report: Folau turns down $1 million peace offering

Publish Date
Sunday, 5 May 2019, 1:16PM
Folau has wrapped up the first day of his Code of Conduct hearing. (Photo / Getty)
Folau has wrapped up the first day of his Code of Conduct hearing. (Photo / Getty)

Wallabies superstar Israel Folau reportedly rejected a peace offering of nearly $1 million to walk away from Rugby Australia as the bitter code of conduct hearing continues in Sydney today.

The Sunday Telegraph revealed that RA made the last-ditch offer to Folau and his legal team earlier this week, hoping to avoid the hearing, which started on Saturday and will continue today, with a decision not expected until midway through next week.

The secret late settlement offer suggests RA may be ­seriously concerned about losing their battle against the Wallabies star, who signed a four-year, $4 million contract extension in February.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika gave evidence on Saturday as Folau challenged RA's intention to tear up his lucrative contract over homophobic comments.

The devoutly religious fullback was informed last month of plans to terminate his deal after he posted on social media that "hell awaits" gay people.

It followed a similar row last year, when he escaped with a warning.

This time RA and the NSW Rugby Union made clear they have had enough, issuing him with a "high-level" breach notice under the player code of conduct.

Super Rugby's all-time record try scorer and one of the sport's highest-profile players opted to challenge it through a tribunal, with experts warning of a protracted legal battle regardless of the outcome.

Neither Folau nor RA chief Raelene Castle commented to the waiting media ahead of the hearing in Sydney on Saturday.

"Israel Folau, Raelene Castle and Michael Cheika attended the hearing and provided oral evidence to the panel at Rugby Australia headquarters in Sydney today," RA said in a brief statement.

"It is not expected that any further witnesses will be called to provide evidence on Sunday."

Submissions and evidence were heard behind closed doors by a three-member panel chaired by John West, an employment law expert and senior counsel.

It will decide what punishment, if any, is appropriate — ranging from a fine to a suspension, or the sack.

Either way, RA said a decision was not expected this weekend.

Legal experts said the case would almost certainly go to an appeal whichever way it went, and then potentially to the courts for a lengthy, and costly, fight that could set a precedent for how much control sporting bodies have over athletes' public pronouncements.