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Folau's younger brother released from Waratahs contract

The elder Folau is today launching Aus$10 million legal action against Rugby Australia.

John Folau warming up for the Waratahs this season..
John Folau warming up for the Waratahs this season..
Image: AAP/PA Images

ISRAEL FOLAU’S YOUNGER brother, John, has been granted a release from his contract with the Waratahs due to ‘personal reasons’, an apparent act of solidarity with the former Wallabies star.

Israel Folau is currently embroiled in a legal battle with Rugby Australia after he was sacked for homophobic posts on social media.

John Folau, 24, was granted leave from the side with head coach Daryl Gibson yesterday saying the rugby league convert, who had not played for the Waratahs in Super Rugby, had ‘divided loyalties’ over the issue.

“We gave John some time off for leave and he has come back to us recently and asked for a release, which we’re happy to grant,” Gibson told press in Sydney.

“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. He wanted to stress how much he enjoyed being with the team and what a difficult decision it was for him.”

When it was put to Gibson that John Folau’s exit was an act of solidarity with Israel, the coach declined to posit any theory, instead directing queries to the one-cap Tonga rugby league international.

“We can all understand the loyalty he has to his family and to his brother and totally respect that position.”

The elder Folau brother, 30-year-old Israel, today launched his legal action over his dismissal, with the fundamentalist Christian saying he was seeking “substantial remedies” from Rugby Australia.

Folau says he was defending freedom of religion by taking his case to Australia’s employment watchdog the Fair Work Commission.

“No Australian of any faith should be fired for practising their religion,” he said in a statement.

Folau’s Aus$4 (€2.5) million  contract was terminated last month after a Rugby Australia tribunal found him guilty of a “high-level” code of conduct breach for posting on social media that “hell awaits” gay people and others he considers sinners.

Folau opted not to appeal against the tribunal ruling, voicing a lack of confidence in Rugby Australia’s process. Instead, he has taken his case to the court system, saying his treatment left him “no choice but to stand up for his beliefs and the rights of all Australians”.

“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,” he said.

RUGBY ISRAEL FOLAU CONDUCT HEARING Folau leaving his May code of conduct hearing with his wife, New Zealand netball international, Maria. Source: AAP/PA Images

Folau’s statement revealed the argument his legal team will pursue, including his assertion that he simply posted a message from the Bible.

 ”The termination of Mr Folau’s employment contract prevented him from playing at the peak of his career and on the cusp of a Rugby World Cup, which would have likely generated even greater exposure and opportunities,” his statement said.

“Accordingly, Mr Folau is seeking substantial remedies from his former employers.”

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the legal action is seeking Aus$10 (€6.2) million, including lost sponsorship and marketing opportunities, a sum it said could bankrupt Rugby Australia if they lose the case.

The action, which names both Rugby Australia and his Super Rugby club the NSW Waratahs, claims of breach of contract and unlawful termination under the Fair Work Act, which protects employees from being sacked because of their religion.

Rugby Australia and NSW Rugby Union defended their decision to axe Folau as a breach of contract issue, with the fullback failing to abide by commitments he would not disparage people on the basis of their sexuality.

“He was bound by a Code of Conduct for all professional players in Australia that spells out clear guidelines and obligations regarding player behaviour, including respectful use of social media,” they said in a joint statement.

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