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It's Code of Conduct hearing day to decide Israel Folau's rugby future

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Expert
4th May, 2019
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Israel Folau’s rugby future rests in the hands of a highly-qualified panel consisting of John West QC, Kate Eastman SC, and John Boultbee.

West is a leading barrister with expertise in the area of industrial relations, and employment law. He will be in the chair.

Eastman, Rugby Australia’s appointment, specialises in complex workplace and human rights disputes, while Boultbee, the Players Association appointment, is a vastly experienced sporting administrator who was Secretary-General of the International Rowing Federation, a director of the Australian Institute of Sport, and a member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Two things are certain.

The panel will hear the reasons why Folau committed virtual rugby suicide by making a second homophobic outburst, and today will result in nobody winning.

It doesn’t matter whether Rugby Australia, or Folau, win this Code of Conduct hearing, the loser will appeal.

The whole affair is an unholy mess.

But the answer to the first certainty will be paramount to where the eventual result will end up.

Folau is no fool, and his reasons why he came out with a second outburst will make riveting listening.

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Simply, religion is basically a private matter, there are those who live by strong beliefs, others who couldn’t give a damn about religion, and those in between.

But the vast majority keep whatever religious beliefs they have to themselves.

Folau isn’t one of them, nor do former tennis player Michael Chang, or golfers Zach Johnson, and Aaron Baddeley.

Chang became the youngest male to ever win a Slam when he took out the 1989 French Open at 17 years and 110 days – the next best Boris Becker 17 and 228, and Mats Wilander 17 and 293.

Chang beat Pete Sampras in straight sets in the second round, then Ivan Lendl in five in the fourth round, and Stefan Edberg in five in the final.

Then he surprised the Roland Garros crowd, and millions of television viewers, by saying – “I thank the Lord Jesus Christ because without Him, I am nothing.”

No elite sportsman had ever brought religion into an acceptance speech, but Johnson and Baddeley were to follow.

Johnson won the 2007 Masters, and 2015 Open, among his 26 professional victories, and on each occasion said along the lines of “I believe my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was walking with me today, I owe that to Him”.

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Baddeley’s never won a major, but he has won eight professional tournaments, adding his salute at the presentation of “I would rather serve my Master, than win the Masters”, or “I thank my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, golf is a great platform to be able to tell people about Jesus”.

There were few if any mentions of the countless hours on the practice fairway, or in the gym keeping themselves fit to compete.

Airing their religious beliefs might have annoyed some fans, but never offended as much as Folau has done twice.

And that’s the key to today’s historic hearing.