UPDATE: Folau opts against appealing sacking but "considering all potential avenues" in next move

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

UPDATE: Israel Folau says a decision not to appeal his Rugby Australia sacking is by no means an "acceptance" of the verdict with the fullback "considering all potential avenues" for action.

Folau's contract was formally terminated last Friday when a three-person panel handed down the maximum sanction for a "high-level" code of conduct breach.

The 30-year-old had three days to appeal the decision, which would have triggered a new code of conduct hearing with a fresh panel, but he let that time expire with no moves to appeal.

Folau released a statement on Monday afternoon clarifying his decision and saying while he would not force an appeals hearing, he was still preparing to take the fight further.

While the Code of Conduct process is now over, Folau could take the matter to the Supreme Court, a move that could take the discussion into a more complex space.

"The last few weeks and, in particular, the last 72 hours have given me considerable opportunity to reflect and think about my future," he said in a statement.

"I will not be exercising my right to appeal Rugby Australia's decision to terminate my employment contract.

"My decision not to commence Rugby Australia's appeal process is in no way an acceptance of the judicial panel's findings.

"I simply do not have confidence in Rugby Australia's ability to treat me fairly or lawfully throughout this process."

Folau said he was considering other ways to fight the decision with court action still open to him.

"The messages of support from fans, players, former rugby administrators and the public have been humbling.

"I believe I still have a lot of rugby left in me and the potential impact of Rugby Australia's decision on my reputation and my career is substantial.

"Ultimately, I need to do what is best for my family, my teammates and the fans, so I am considering all potential avenues open to me."

Rugby Australia confirmed on Monday afternoon that Folau had not contacted them to request an appeal on the verdict or sanction within the 72-hour window.

His silence means the verdict stands and his contract remains terminated, ending his Australian rugby career after just over six seasons.

"The 72-hour window for Israel Folau to appeal his high-level Code of Conduct breach and sanction has expired," it read.

"As Folau has not notified the panel of his intention to appeal, the Code of Conduct process has now formally concluded.

"With the Code of Conduct matter complete, Folau’s employment contract will be terminated."

Though he has opted against an appeal, there is still the option for Folau to pursue court action. 

Rugby AU CEO Raelene Castle told RUGBY.com.au on Friday that a court battle would not cripple the game but it would take funds away from parts of the sport that need it most.

"I think it is an exaggeration to say it will imperil the game’s finances - I don’t believe that to be true," he said.

"Certainly I believe this is money that we could be spending on the rugby community and that’s disappointing.

"Every dollar that we spend on legal fees is a dollar that we don’t spend in the community. That is the reality."

Israel was shut down by Ireland in Melbourne. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyOn the field, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said Folau's absence would make the Wallabies a different proposition.

"They will be different, like he's such a great player and it's disappointing for Australia that this whole thing has happened," Hansen said in New Zealand.

"It has and they'll want to move on from that.

"When you play Test matches you want to play against the best but they've got some quality players to play fullback. I'm sure they'll put players in with similar skill."

Hansen said the Folau controversy served as a reminder about the need to be careful when posting on social media.

"People can have their own beliefs, there's nothing wrong with that, as long as it's not damaging the beliefs of the team or the organisation that you work for," he said.