Never has there been more disdain in Australian sporting theatre than there is right now.
Forget the Anthony Mundine outbursts or the ball tampering saga, Israel Folau is the new man people seemingly love to hate. But where did it all seemingly go wrong?
Is Folau the problem here, or is the problem our seemingly fickle 2017 society, a society that seems to change the definitions of words to suit the flavour of the month, or year, or whatever. Let’s have a look back to try and nut this out.
Like the society we now seem to live in, it hasn’t always been like this for Folau. Born in Minto, New South Wales to Tongan parents, from the moment Folau made his debut for the Melbourne Storm in Round 1 of the 2007 NRL season as a spritely 17-year-old, it appeared that he was always destined for greatness.
He could run, step and jump better than any 17-year-old I’ve ever seen. He was freakish. Aside from an ageing body, not much of this has changed other than the identity of his employer. Folau is now Rugby AU’s highest profile player, rather than plying his trade in rugby league.
Originally of Mormon faith, Folau admittedly lost his way when he went to play for GWS in the AFL, doing all the usual things that silly young men do – drinking, womanising, living on the edge etc.
Folau needed help, and he found the help he needed. It wasn’t more money. It wasn’t a new house or new car. It was religion, becoming a member of the ‘Assemblies of God’, which is of the Christian faith.
He had found love again. He had found a way to better himself. He had also found a way to better the people around him.
Until the 2017 same-sex marriage plebiscite, in which he was in the ‘no’ camp due to his religious beliefs, Folau fitted the profile that almost every little boy and girl wanted to be when they grow up.
Strong, successful, non-drinker, non-smoker, polite, almost the most morally perfect human being.
The tide has sadly turned against Folau. This is certainly not a reflection of the person Folau is, but a reflection of where we are going as a society.
This is where I get to Raelene Castle, the most courageous CEO in Australian sport. How many times have we heard the general public, celebrities and media pushing an agenda, an agenda that almost always says “we believe in freedom of religion and speech, until someone says something that is the opposite to our own opinion”.
I have read and heard words to that effect no less than 200 times in the last 8-9 months. It obviously very confusing to some.
The problem is becoming quite clear, that there are media organisations – often followed by a pack of sheepish people – rewriting the definitions of words to suit their often one-eyed, virtue signaling agendas.
There was once a time, not that long ago, where the word ‘inclusiveness’ actually meant inclusiveness of everyone. Ask any fair-minded person of their definition of the word, and I’m sure they will say the same.
There was no metaphoric book of ‘things you can and can’t say’, and if people didn’t like your opinion, they just called you a dat#k head, and walked off. There were no friendships broken.
When it rains, it pours, yes. This doesn’t mean a little ray of sunshine doesn’t pop through the clouds every now and then.
Raelene Castle is that ray of sunshine. You see Castle understands full well what the word inclusiveness means, she also knows what it means to be a person of conviction and courage.
Castle could’ve jumped on the hypocrite bandwagon and attacked Folau, causing her even more heartache when the inevitable happens – Folau taking court action. But she is not just wiser than that, she’s clearly better and she is made of sterner stuff.
I will never forget the day Castle released a statement from the Rugby AU saying the there would be no action taken against Folau for his April Instagram comments. I wish there were more CEOs in Australian sport like her.
Castle showed that day that she would stand by her own convictions, this is her show. Castle displayed an often forgotten value of human history, that being ‘resilience’, a value she continues to push.
She stood up for what she believed in, rather than an awful narrative pushed by the often morally corrupt. She showed us that we are all equal in regards to our freedom of speech and religion, not just a select few of us that lack the value I have stated here.
Here’s hoping that Castle is one day put in the spotlight for things she has said and done, the right things, rather than the things she hasn’t said and done.
All power to Raelene Castle, I am certainly a fan.