Israel Folau has set up a “Legal Action Fund” with a crowdfunding website to help cover legal bills in his fight against his dismissal by Rugby Australia.
Folau and Rugby Australia were last week ordered into mediation by the Fair Work Commission of Australia after the former Wallabies star disputed the termination of contract.
Folau had been deemed to have made a high-level breach of Rugby Australia’s Code of Conduct for anti-gay social media comments that also condemned drunks, fornicators and others to hell unless they repented.
A three-person Rugby Australia panel upheld the governing body’s original decision, resulting in Folau having his four-year contract, reportedly worth $[Aus]1 million per season, torn up.
The two-time John Eales Medallist on Friday launched his appeal for funding and later joined 2GB breakfast host Alan Jones, who has supported Folau from the outset, to explain why he wouldn’t back down from his “principles.”
“My faith and what I believe in from the bible is the most important thing to me,” Folau told 2GB. “It defines me as a person and my identity is found in what’s written in what I call the word of God. And everything that I do and everything that I live by is based on the principles in that book.”
Folau continues to dispute the Code of Conduct breach and how it pertained to his social media use, despite confirming he had conversations with Rugby Australia chief Raelene Castle about it.
“Absolutely not,” Folau responded when asked whether there was anything in his contract restricting him from “discussing his faith on social media.”
“After the first initial incident last year, I had a meeting with Raelene and we spoke about the potential effect it could have within the game. She said I was still able to share my religious beliefs but just do it in a more respectful way.”
In his call for funding, Folau claims he and wife, Maria, have already spent $100,000 of their own money in legal costs.
In the “I want to help” section, Folau has included a disclaimer that says he will in no way be bound to apply any donated funds to his legal action and will not be expected to offer any services in return.
“In making this contribution I acknowledge that my contributions are made freely as a gift on the basis previously affirmed and that there will be no obligations on Israel Folau to do anything for me in recognition of the gift or to apply the funds in any particular way with respect to his legal action, and that I hold no expectation to receive anything in return for my contribution,” the page reads.
The latest twist in the seemingly never-ending saga comes as his former NSW Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson is expected to resign after what can only be described as a season from hell.
Gibson had been granted a one-year extension with the Waratahs a mere five weeks before Folau was stood down indefinitely following separate postings on Twitter and Instagram on April 10. The Waratahs won just three further games after Folau was axed and finished in 12th spot on the Super Rugby ladder, leaving many senior players frustrated with Folau and his refusal to act in the best interests of his team.
When asked about comments from Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley that criticised his behaviour, Folau responded: “It’s quite a shock and, to me, whether or not that was really what they meant, I don’t take any of those things personally. I have no harsh feelings towards them.”