Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle would not categorically rule out the possibility of Israel Folau returning to the code but believes the sacked Wallabies superstar would refuse to sign under the current player contractual terms.
“I think it’s clear to see that our values are not aligned and the expectations that Rugby Australia would have of Israel coming back into the sport would not be acceptable,” she told reporters on Thursday morning.
Asked if that constituted a clear no, Ms Castle said, “Never say never, right? It would be crazy for me to say that.
“What I’m saying is we’ve got a value dis-alignment.
Rugby Australia is standing by its “commercial decision” to settle a legal dispute with sacked Wallabies star Israel Folau rather than going to court next year.
Ms Castle said the organisation “didn’t back down” but rather it ensured the cost was less than going to a trial and gave the national body certainty.
Ms Castle was asked a number of questions about whether the 73-times capped Folau would be allowed back into Australian rugby.
“At the end of the day, I don’t believe that he would sign under the current player contract.”
Reported settlement figure of $8m ‘inaccurate’
Ms Castle earlier dismissed a reported settlement figure of $8 million on Twitter, describing the amount as “wildly inaccurate”, adding RA won’t have to make changes to the budget or take money away from community rugby to pay Folau.
Folau had been seeking $14 million in compensation after lodging an unfair dismissal claim against the sporting body following his sacking eight months ago.
“Folau settlement numbers are confidential but numbers being speculated are wildly inaccurate,” she tweeted on Thursday.
Ms Castle said the national body was covered by insurance but couldn’t discuss to what extent.
“The terms are confidential but what you do try and find is situation that gives RA some certainty and this settlement gives us that and also ensured that cost to RA was less than seeing a trial through to the end of February,” Ms Castle said.
“We didn’t back down – we needed to give the game some certainty.”
Ms Castle said the organisation made the right call in sacking Folau in April for his religiously-motivated but inflammatory anti-gay social media posts.
“We made the right decision in calling out Israel on his posts and inappropriate messaging, that remains the same.
“Taking this conversation further into a court situation was not helping the game and so we made a decision that gave us cost certainty that put us in the best financial situation in entering the new year in a positive way.”
Folau was dumped over a controversial series of Instagram posts, one of which read: “Drunks, Homosexuals, Adulterers, Liars, Fornicators, Thieves, Atheists, Idolators: Hell Awaits You. Repent! Only Jesus Saves.” They were deemed homophobic and breaches of his RA contract.
Folau settlement numbers are confidential but numbers being speculated are wildly inaccurate
— Raelene Castle (@raelenecastle) December 4, 2019
Folau, who also played for the Waratahs, had argued he was sacked because of this Christian faith and denied breaching his contract.
The parties resolved their dispute through Federal Court ordered mediation that began with a marathon 12-hour session on Monday and wrapped up over the phone on Wednesday.
Both wished each other well for the future after signing a confidential settlement and apologised for any “hurt or harm” they caused each other.
— Rugby Australia (@RugbyAU) December 4, 2019
Folau’s case was being spun as a fight for religious freedom and the athlete on Wednesday backed federal government plans for a bill to protect such freedoms.
The legislation was to have been debated in the federal parliament this year but has been delayed until 2020 after being criticised by religious leaders.
“With today’s acknowledgement and apology by Rugby Australia, we have been vindicated and can now move on with our lives to focus on our faith and our family,” Folau said in a video posted on his website with his wife Maria by his side.
Meanwhile, RA and NSW Rugby said the fact the case was settled did not “in any way” mean they agreed with the content of Folau’s posts.