A stunning run through September saw the Giants make their first grand final last year, before they were obliterated by the all-conquering Tigers.
Formerly a “respectful and humble” poster boy for AFL’s expansion into western Sydney, Israel Folau has become a cautionary tale and case study in crisis management for everyone in the league.
GWS headhunted Folau, who at that point was a household name in NSW because of his NRL superstardom, when they became the AFL’s 18th franchise.
The million-dollar Folau experiment lasted just 13 games, ending when the code-hopper left the Giants following their inaugural season in 2012.
Folau quickly became a marketing weapon and match-winning fullback for Rugby Australia but is now believed to be on the cusp of being fired for an anti-gay outburst on social media.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan and club counterparts, including Giants boss Dave Matthews, discussed the protracted Folau saga behind closed doors on Tuesday.
“It was more a case of saying how clear in our game are we on the expectations that an employee has,” Matthews told reporters on Thursday.
“Clearly it’s something that any employee needs to be careful about, in terms of what their personal beliefs are compared to the beliefs or the values of the organisation.”
Religion has always been a major part of Folau’s life, including his brief AFL career.
However, if the 30-year-old harboured the same views about homosexuality at the time then he was far more reserved about it.
“When Israel was at the Giants he didn’t pose any problems to us whatsoever, we found him to be a very respectful, humble young man,” Matthews said.
“But clearly some of the things he’s put out in the public domain are things that wouldn’t fit with the values of the Giants.
“You’re never really sure what beliefs people within your organisation hold.
“Some of those things only become apparent when people are prepared to be public about it.”
Meanwhile, Matthews defended GWS board member Jimmy Bartel’s attack on players.
Bartel, the three-time premiership star who played 305 games with Geelong, described the Giants’ loss to Hawthorn as their worst performance in club history.
“He’s very supportive of what we’re trying to do,” Matthews said.
“The fact he expressed disappointment on the weekend is no different to the fact that (coach) Leon Cameron or (captain) Phil Davis expressed disappointment.”