Folau fallout: Rugby Australia can’t hide from hypocrisy

by Jamie Wall / 17 April, 2018
Israel Folau

Israel Folau. Photo/Getty.

Last week, everyone wanted to know what Rugby Australia (RA) was going to do about Israel Folau. This week, we got the answer - and it was depressingly predictable.

It should have been a disciplinary hearing about Folau's medieval views on sexuality and how they completely contradict the organisation's values. Instead, RA sat down for what amounted to a coffee table discussion about Folau's right to say whatever he likes, and the outcome was probably the worst possible for everyone involved.

Bad for Folau, because now he probably feels emboldened to continue carrying on preaching his politically incorrect, hateful nonsense. Clearly he can't see that bigotry wrapped in religion is still very much bigotry, but unfortunately RA seem to think that's a somewhat suitable way to overlook it.

Even worse for RA and their new chief executive Raelene Castle is that they now look like a pack of total hypocrites. The words 'slap on the wrist with a wet bus ticket' have been bandied around as a description for the consequences of Folau's actions, but that's giving wet bus tickets a bad name. The double standards of promoting themselves as an inclusive, tolerant game for the people while employing a guy that thinks gay people are going to hell are glaringly obvious.

But, of course, the worst outcome is for the people out there who now have to deal with their sexuality being a talking point. This is the most selfish part of the whole thing, that Folau clearly didn't consider that his words aren't going to have an effect on the LBGT+ community.

Many of them couldn't care less about what a rugby player thinks about where they're headed in the afterlife, but all Folau's garbage has done is reinforce entrenched attitudes of prejudice against them - religious or otherwise.

(Probably also worth mentioning Netball NZ, who have enough on their plate already. Now they have to contend with the fact that Maria Folau is now a walking headline for all the wrong reasons too.)

But back to RA and what it means for them. This situation has definitely created a rod for its own back, because it more or less means that Folau can say what he likes without fear of consequence. Already team mate Curtis Rona has come out and publicly supported him, which is an interesting stance given the backlash - but it's the mood of another player that everyone is more interested in.

Last week I highlighted the case of former Waratahs flanker Jacques Potgieter and his 2015 use of a derogatory term on the field in a game against the Brumbies. While that was handled in an appropriate, positive manner, the one part of that story that should be worrying RA is that Potgieter's use of the 'f' word was brought to the attention of the authorities by Wallaby David Pocock.

That's the same David Pocock who said he wasn't going to get married until marriage equality was legal in Australia. The same Pocock who chained himself to a digger in protest of a NSW coal mine and got himself arrested. And, oh yeah, the same Pocock who is about the same level as Folau in rugby-playing importance when it comes to selecting the Wallabies.

Just exactly how his and Folau's morals can share the same changing room will be the question that everyone is now most interested in, and the media won't be afraid to ask it. The Wallabies don't command the same level of intimidation over their local rugby scribes the All Blacks do - even though a situation like this is pretty unfathomable on this side of the Tasman given that the reluctance of the All Blacks to say anything at all, let alone anything controversial.

So well done RA, you've got us hanging off every word Israel Folau says. Let's just hope the next time we have to talk about him, it won't be the same story all over again.

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