Former Wallabies coach Alan Jones has blown up in a furious on-air tirade after Israel Folau was found guilty of a "high level" breach of his contract last night before the rugby star sent the broadcaster a message, breaking his silence on the verdict.
A three-person independent panel of chair John West QC, Rugby Australia (RA) representative Kate Eastman SC and the Rugby Union Players' Association-appointed John Boultbee handed down the verdict and have now retired to decide on Folau's sanction following an epic code of conduct hearing in Sydney.
RA boss Raelene Castle issued Folau with a breach notice last month following his controversial social media posts about homosexuals and other sinners and threatened to tear up his four-year, $4 million contract.
The 30-year-old devout Christian took to Instagram to proclaim "hell awaits" for "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolators".
While Folau may yet be spared the sack, termination of his contract is now a possibility.
After defending Folau on the airwaves this morning, Jones — who coached the Wallabies in the 1980s and now hosts 2GB's popular breakfast radio show — relayed a message he said he'd received from the Wallabies star.
"I've just had a note from Israel, he won't mind if I'm sharing it with you because I said to him, 'Hold your head up'," Jones said.
"He said, 'Alan, I'm at peace, mate. My head is held high'."
That message came after Jones said the "Orwellian treatment" of the rugby icon, combined with various recent attacks on politicians, painted a grim picture of the state of Australia.
"The Australia that our Anzacs fought for seems to be disappearing before our very eyes," Jones said. "It prompts you to wonder what kind of society we're living in.
"Nothing wrong with Israel, it's the society and those who prosecute him who are sick.
"But the cancer won't kill us, it's the cancer that will be removed, not Israel. The Australian people won't accept this.
"This is not the Australia our veterans fought for and we're going to have to take our country back by argument and by the democratic and peaceful process — not by hate and revenge or vilification and intimidation."
Jones also read from a speech politician Mark Latham is scheduled to give today in NSW parliament, calling it "one of the most magnificent political speeches I've read".
In the speech, according to Jones, Latham says: "How did our state and our nation ever come to this?
"Those claiming outrage have fabricated their position solely for the purpose of censorship.
"By excluding a committed Christian, they (Rugby Australia) are making their game less inclusive.
"No Australian should live in fear of the words they utter.
"This is a stunning intrusion on workers' rights."
Jones continued his attack on the Folau decision after reading Latham's words, saying he is now "ashamed" of the sport which he once played an integral role in.
"Israel Folau, with my support and the support of millions of Australians, will take this fight every inch of the way," Jones said.
"Rugby union preaches diversity — they really mean uniformity. They preach inclusion but they exclude Israel.
"We take oaths of office in every court of the land. The Prime Minister is sworn in with his hand on the Bible — the same bible which Israel Folau has quoted and he's now had his dignity, his integrity, his employment, his vocation and his income stolen from him.
"I coached Australian rugby, I was proud of it, I was proud of the boys and I was proud of everything we stood for. Today, I'm ashamed of the people who've inherited our proud legacy.
"The battle has just begun, and it's a battle for all Australians. If we're not free to articulate our religious beliefs and quote from the bible, and if we're not free to speak for fear that someone affects a hurt or is part of the offence industry, if that's where we've reached in this country, we've reached a dark place and we are all at risk."
The best punishment Folau can now hope for is a suspension and/or a fine. The sanction is not expected to be handed down for several days, with RA not offering a timeline on any decision.
Folau also has the right of appeal, a process that would involve a completely new three-person panel being selected.
Should he be sacked, Folau — Super Rugby's all-time leading try-scorer and a 73-Test stalwart for the Wallabies — would be the first Australian athlete dismissed for expressing fundamental religious beliefs.
Even before it potentially reaches the courts, the Folau hearing has developed into one of the most drawn-out legal stoushes in Australian sports history. The hearing stretched 22 hours over three days, with any hopes of a "common sense" settlement — as NSW Waratahs chairman Roger Davis had hoped for on Monday — blown out of the water by Tuesday night's sensational development.
Folau spent more than twice as long holed up at the hearing than he has played for the Waratahs in 2019.
RA initially anticipated all evidence being heard in one day, with Sunday also reserved if more time was needed. The decision was expected to be handed down on Tuesday.
Instead, the hearing resumed at the offices of Herbert Smith Freehills in Sydney's CBD on Tuesday after some of the brightest brains in the land spent the weekend arguing the complex case at RA headquarters.
As well as the extraordinary length of the hearing, the cost of the case is also mounting, with the two parties thought to have shelled out an estimated $300,000 on legal bills since Saturday alone.
Regardless of the panel's ultimate decision, the expenses are almost certain to keep piling up.
Folau's Wallabies teammate Quade Cooper — himself frozen out last year by Queensland Reds coach Brad Thorn — was asked earlier on Tuesday if he could see any way back for the stood-down star.
"I'm not too sure — that's something you would have to speak to (his Waratahs teammates) Bernard (Foley) and Nick Phipps and Michael Hooper and those guys about," Cooper said, adding that he empathised with Folau's flight.
"You feel for anyone who's going through a difficult patch in their life."