Lawyers for dumped Wallabies star Israel Folau have lodged an unfair dismissal claim against Rugby Australia.
Applications were filed with the Fair Work Commission on Thursday against the NSW Rugby Union and the national governing body following Folau’s sacking last month after his controversial social media posts on his religious beliefs.
Having been warned last year by RA boss Raelene Castle, the 30-year-old dual international posted a bible passage on Instagram proclaiming hell awaits “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters” unless they repent their sins.
“No Australian of any faith should be fired for practising their religion,” Folau said on Thursday.
After an epic code-of-conduct hearing stretching 22 hours over three days and featuring some of the sharpest legal minds in Australia, RA and the Waratahs terminated Folau’s multimillion-dollar contract on May 17, citing a “high-level” breach of his contract.
Folau had 72 hours to appeal the judicial panel’s decision at a second code of contract hearing, but opted against doing so, saying he had lost faith in RA’s ability to treat him fairly or lawfully.
Folau will now argue that under the Fair Work Act his employment was unlawfully terminated because of his religion.
“I will forever be grateful and proud to have played the sport I love for our nation,” he said.
“Ours is an amazing country built on important principles, including freedom of religion.
“A nation made up of so many different faiths and cultural backgrounds will never be truly rich unless this freedom applies to all of us.”
Documents lodged with the commission claim the sacking meant Folau was prevented from playing at the peak of his career and on the cusp of a Rugby World Cup, which would have generated greater exposure and opportunities.
“The messages of support we have received over these difficult few weeks have made me realise there are many Australians who feel their fundamental rights are being steadily eroded,” Folau said.
At the time of the sacking, Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle said it was a sad day for the sport to terminate the Wallabies’ three-time player of the year and Super Rugby’s all-time leading try-scorer.
Also on Thursday, Folau’s brother John quit the NSW Waratahs.
NSW coach Daryl Gibson said on Thursday the 24-year-old had been grappling with “divided loyalties” before being granted a release.
“John has been in a difficult position for the last wee while. He has got really divided loyalties to his family and his brother and then also to the team,” Gibson said.
John Folau, a former Parramatta NRL player, did not play a match for the Waratahs. He was named on the bench but did not play against the Sunwolves earlier this season.
Folau’s unfair dismissal claim comes a day after ARL Commission chairman Peter Beattie slammed the door shut on the star fullback’s bid to return to the NRL.
Beattie said on Wednesday the NRL would not register a contract with the 30-year-old under any circumstance.
“As it stands, he will not be considered for registration,” he said. “What Israel chooses to do in relation to his social media posts and his faith is a matter for him.”