The final nail in the coffin of Australian rugby?

Image credit: Stuff

Waratah’s star full back Israel Folau is contracted with Rugby Australia until 2022, but Australian commentator Jason Morrison said that this year he has spent more time in a hearing room than playing rugby.

Rugby Australia have determined that Folau breached his employment contract when he tweeted his religious beliefs, but are yet to decide his punishment although it will probably end his rugby career.

Morrison said Rugby Australia have just opened the new Western Sydney Stadium at Paramatta a few weeks ago. Quote.

[This is] a perfect opportunity for the fans in Western [Sydney in] Australia to show how much they care about this sport and they could pull 10,000 people to it for a rugby match.

But people are voting with their feet, they’re voting with their remote controls. They’re switching the game off they are staying away from the game – and that’s before all of this.

Now, I look at it and you think – and who wins out of all this? It’s turned into a… essentially a staffroom/boardroom battle that is now played out across some shadows -the entire game now.

And if you can’t pull a crowd to a rugby game in the heart of Sydney in a brand-new stadium for a showcase event, already you got a drama.

Then you do this to yourself and you have somebody who is, you know, a master player who is fantastic to watch, who has name recognition beyond the game itself.

He’s a multi-code player in Australia and they have managed to find a way to destroy all of this at the very same time demonstrated that they too have been sucked into the very thing that is polarising people in your country and my country.

You know, this kind of standover motherhood, pointing at you what you can and can’t do, kind of nanny state environment.”

The AM Show end of quote.

Responsibility for the debacle is shared between social media trolls; the “you can’t offend homosexuals, you’ll hurt their feelings” brigade; Qantas, the treasure chest of Australian rugby and Rugby Australia themselves who, at the end of the day, made the wrong decision.

Folau has threatened to take his case to the Federal Employment Court and I hope he does. At the very least, it will cost Rugby Australia more cash and more bad publicity. Has Rugby Australia as Morrison suggests, committed hara-kiri?

Has it even occurred to them that they are actually the big losers in this? They could have taken a much stronger stance with Folau’s critics, they could have argued that Folau’s loss might trigger other major players to leave and, at the very least, put off Pacifica players. I don’t think that it did occur to them. They made a bad decision and then displayed weakness and vulnerability when they didn’t wrap it up weeks ago.

As Morrison suggests, the sacred cow of Australian rugby has been wounded, possibly fatally. Raelene Castle can start dusting off her CV although she shouldn’t bother sending it within Australia or NZ.

Perhaps this injustice will be a catalyst for change? Perhaps we will support people who are targeted in future? Perhaps we are now attuned to recognising the invisible people hiding in the shadows of social media? Perhaps we will be more discerning about political agendas, and perhaps we won’t support sponsors who indulge their political preferences?

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