Israel Folau departs after a code of conduct hearing in Sydney on May 7.
Israel Folau departs after a code of conduct hearing in Sydney on May 7.

Revealed: 11th-hour bungle created Folau mess

FRESH details have emerged of Rugby Australia's mishandling of Israel Folau's contract negotiations, as the cross-code star awaits a decision on his future in rugby union.

According to a Fairfax report, Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle ditched an 11th-hour attempt to insert a social media clause into Folau's four-year contract.

A month after Folau signed the original contract on October 10, Castle reportedly met Folau in London in an effort to convince him to sign a social media addendum that had inexplicably been forgotten first time around.

But Castle, keen to rebuild her relationship with their marquee player after Folau's first social media controversy in April 2018, called off the attempt to add in the social media clause and chose to rely on the handshake agreement she had made with Folau.

Rugby Australia reportedly messaged Folau via manager Isaac Moses just one day after the initial contract was signed in October, asking that the mistakenly omitted social media clause be added.

The clause required that Folau's social media usage "not be likely to … jeopardise the reputation of either organisation (RA or NSW Rugby) or bring into disrepute the wider game", the report states.

Folau, as advised by his manager Moses, did not sign the deal. Had he done so, Rugby Australia would likely have been able to immediately terminate his contract after his recent social media posts, avoiding the costly drama of the last few weeks.

Fairfax also revealed another crucial error in RA's handling of the situation, as the governing body failed to seek the approval of the Rugby Union Players' Association to add in the clause.

Under the collective bargaining agreement, all contracts must be signed off by RUPA and no extra fine print can be added if it doesn't benefit the player.

Crucially, this means that RA would have been in breach of the CBA had Folau gone ahead and signed the addendum to the contract.

Fairfax revealed that there had been a precedent set with additional clauses being inserted into players' contracts.

After Kurtley Beale escaped suspension and instead fined $45,000 in 2014 for sending an offensive message to Di Patson, the Waratahs back signed a new contract three months later that included specific behavioural requirements.

Interestingly, Beale and his agent, Moses, accepted them as it was the only way the contract was going to get across the line.

"Following that code of conduct process, when they offered Kurtley the renewal of a contract they had conditions in there pertaining to standards of behaviour that had to be agreed to by myself as the CEO of the players' association," former RUPA and Waratahs chief executive Greg Harris told Fairfax.

"After discussing it with the players' agent, we agreed to accept those amendments to the standard player contract."

A decision on Folau's future is expected to be made this week, with the independent three-person panel set to decide the sanction for his breach of the professional players' code of conduct.

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