Israel Folau has been left ‘deeply saddened’ by Rugby Australia’s decision to terminate his contract, the Wallabies star said in a statement on Friday.
Folau had his four-year, $4-million contract torn up after a three-person panel, chaired by John West QC, handed down the verdict after finding him guilty of a high-level breach of the players’ code of conduct.
Folau was stood down by Rugby Australia and the New South Wales Rugby Union on 12 April. He was served a notice of termination following his latest controversial social media posts in which he targeted ‘drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators’ and warned: ‘Hell awaits you’.
His employers deemed Folau’s actions as a high-level code of conduct breach. The 30-year-old was given 48 hours to accept the sanction or have the matter referred to a code of conduct hearing, which he ultimately opted for.
‘It has been a privilege and an honour to represent Australia and my home state of New South Wales, playing the game I love,’ Folau said in a statement following the decision.
‘I am deeply saddened by today’s decision to terminate my employment and I am considering my options. As Australians, we are born with certain rights, including the right to freedom of religion and the right to freedom of expression.
‘The Christian faith has always been a part of my life and I believe it is my duty as a Christian to share God’s word.
‘Upholding my religious beliefs should not prevent my ability to work or play for my club or country,
‘I would like to thank my wife Maria for her love and encouragement to stay true to our beliefs.
‘We have been humbled by the support we have received from family, friends, players, fans and the wider community.
‘Thank you also to those who have spoken out in my defence, some of whom do not share my beliefs, but have defended my right to express them.’
Folau has 72 hours to appeal his termination.
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