Kiwi Raelene Castle defends her role in Israel Folau sacking
Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle has launched a staunch defence of her role in the sacking of Israel Folau, rubbishing the claim that the Wallabies fullback didn't know what the rules were.
Castle's handling of the case has come under heavy scrutiny, with former Wallabies captain Nick Farr-Jones suggesting that Folau wasn't aware that a second social media condemning homosexuals to hell would put his multimillion-dollar contract in jeopardy.
However, Castle said on Friday that she had "multiple conversations" with either Folau or his manager, spelling out exactly what Rugby Australia's expectations were.
"Rugby Australia's submission to the [Code of Conduct] tribunal was that we had multiple conversations, myself directly with Mr Folau, and also through his manager, and set out our very clear expectations," Castle said.
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"That was submission we made to the tribunal and it's on that submission that he was found to have his contract terminated."
The Folau case has rocked Australian rugby in a year that it desperately needs some positive news in a tough Australian marketplace
Folau was already on a warning after posting similar comments last year and Castle couldn't disguise her hurt at what she felt was a betrayal by the code-hopper.
"I'm very disappointed," Castle said.
"Certainly we proposed that he hurt some people [last year], that was acknowledged, and he then went ahead and did it anyway."
Rugby Australia has also been under fire for not inserting a social media clause into Folau's contract but in Australia, the players' union RUPA holds significant sway.
Under the collective bargaining agreement between RA and RUPA, Castle said her hands were tied even if she had wanted to put in such a clause to Folau's four-year deal that was agreed late last year.
"We have a CBA that is signed off by the players' association and any alteration to that contract would need to be approved by both RUPA and the player," Castle said.
"So, we can't just inset clauses whenever we feel like it."
The game in Australia will now be bracing for an appeal from Folau and the player has 72 hours to lodge one.
There will be plenty of introspection over coming months to see if RA could have done anything better, but Castle said there was no playbook for dealing with such complex cases.
"These are difficult matters," she said.
"It's really easy when you've got a crystal ball and you look backwards with all the benefit of hindsight.
"We were confident with the process we put in place to start off with.
"We knew that the Code of Conduct sets out calmly and firmly the expectations for our players, but also as employees of Rugby Australia, and that's proven to be true."
If Folau chooses to pursue an appeal, Rugby Australia's strained finances will take another hit, and Castle urged Folau to consider those implications before he opted for another courtroom battle.
"It wasn't Rugby Australia that put ourselves in this situation, it was Mr Folau that put us in this situation and we had to respond to that," she said.
"I'd hope that Mr Folau takes that into consideration when thinks about his next steps."
Castle also said Australian rugby still welcomed those with religious beliefs, declaring her confidence in Michael Cheika's ability to unite the Wallabies' diverse playing group for their Rugby World Cup campaign.
"We have many players that quote the Bible on their social media platforms, as Mr Folau did for the first nine months of his new contract," she said.
"And we had a prayer circle on the ground between our players after the [Rebels v Reds] game last weekend.
"That's an expression of their religious views in a respectful way."