Waratahs back Karmichael Hunt says he is sad for long-time friend Israel Folau as the star fullback awaits a decision on the future of his rugby career.
Folau has been stood down from the Waratahs ahead of a code of conduct hearing on Saturday May 4 that could determine whether he can play rugby in Australia again.
The Wallabies star is set to front a code of conduct hearing on Saturday May 4, a process that could go on for two days.
That hearing might only be the start of more legal action, though, depending on which way the tribunal outcome falls.
Should Folau lose, he could potentially appeal the decision in the Supreme Court, extending the process even further.
Hunt is uniquely placed to sympathise with Folau.
The utility is no stranger to second, or third chances, having served two suspensions over drug-related arrests since coming to rugby in 2015.
An indiscretion ahead of the 2018 Super Rugby season ultimately cost him his time at the Queensland Reds, with coach Brad Thorn turning him away from training.
Though their breaches are very different in nature, Folau and Hunt have known each other since their days in the NRL more than a decade ago and the Waratahs centre said he felt for his friend.
“It’s a sad situation,” he said.
“I’ve got a personal connection with Izzy that’s gone back many years now, so to obviously see him the position that he’s in – regardless of what his behaviour has caused – I still feel for him.
“But there’s a process in place now which is out of our control, out of my control and away from my personal beliefs and we as a team just have to worry about moving forward and the process will take care of itself in due time.”
While he admitted the Waratahs were initially “shell shocked” about Folau, last Saturday’s win over the Rebels was proof it wasn’t going to derail their season.
“Initially you have a pretty shell-shocked change room and I think that's just a natural feeling to be had regardless of right or wrong because he is a teammate but the one thing about football that you need to be able to do is you need to be able to move on pretty quickly,” he said.
“Regardless of if you have a 50-point loss to a team on the weekend or you lose a player like Israel, you've got to be able to look forward and worry about the week coming.
“That's what the guys have been doing.
“I think the performance on the weekend showed where the guys' head space is at. We're worried about what we want to get out of this season and fulfilling our potential.”
Hunt, who has messaged Folau in the aftermath of the controversy, said he hadn’t turned his back on Folau as a friend.
“I have a lot of personal connections with many people from different walks of life,” he said.
“If anyone is in trouble or needs a hand, I'll always want to put my hand out there and support them regardless but in terms of my personal beliefs, I'm going to leave it at that and just move forward.”
The Waratahs will be in the middle of a South African tour while Folau's hearing takes place, taking on the Bulls and Lions overseas.
The Waratahs take on the Sharks on Saturday April 27 at BankWest Stadium, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Kayo and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.