If you thought this winter’s flu season was bad, a similarly draining condition is starting to take hold in Australia: Folau Fatigue.
It’s hard to avoid and hard to treat. The depressing news is there’s a good chance it will hang around for many more months, with the potential to turn into Chronic Folau Fatigue Syndrome.
Folau Fatigue is caused by the ongoing dispute between former Wallabies fullback Israel Folau and his former employer Rugby Australia, who sacked him over his inflammatory social media posts.
That was ten weeks ago, and the coverage, allegations, commentary and debate has been wall-to-wall since.
The courtroom action is about to go up a notch. Folau is challenging his dismissal and the next step is a conciliation conference before the Fair Work Commission in Sydney today. Given Folau has just raised $2 million to cover legal fees, he doesn’t seem keen for a settlement.
There are some that have a decent level of immunity to Folau Fatigue. Hard-line Christians, freedom of speech campaigners, employment lawyers, HR professionals and politicians are among them.
They are in it for the long haul. It’s being viewed by many as a pivotal legal case in terms of freedom of employees to express religious views without fear of punishment from employers.
The relatively new existence of social media and its power gives it much of its complexity.
RA CEO Raelene Castle, not surprisingly, believes it’s cut and dried.
“This is an employment matter and does not concern his religious beliefs or his ability to express them freely,” Castle said in email sent to rugby supporters.
Rugby fans are the ones that are most at risk of developing Folau Fatigue. They have debated hard over whether Folau should’ve been sent packing or not, and there’s still a lot of intrigue over the upcoming court stoush.
But they have also accepted that Folau will never pull on a Wallabies or Waratahs jersey again.
Most rugby fans are just keen to move on.
NSWRU chairman Roger Davis was trying to talk on behalf of a lot of rugby fans yesterday while making a plea for Folau and RA to settle out of court.
“I don’t think rugby should be defining freedom of religion rights or freedom of expression rights. I don’t think it’s our job,” Davis told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“I’ve got no criticism of his beliefs or his rights, we just want to play football, winning football, and this is having an impact. You’d like to look back on rugby as the game they play in heaven, not as the defining sport for social rights. I don’t think that’s our obligation.”
How does one relieve the symptoms of Folau Fatigue? It will offer distraction for just under two hours, but for Aussie fans, tuning into the Brumbies’ Super Rugby semi-final against the Jaguares early on Saturday morning in Buenos Aires.
As Davis wants, get back to the rugby.
The Brumbies, who are aiming to qualify for their first final since 2013, face what’s close to an Argentinian Test team. Jaguares prop Mayco Vivas is the only player named in the starting side who hasn’t represented Argentina.
The Jaguares have won 10 of their last 11 games while the Brumbies have won seven straight – although their most recent loss came against the Argentine side in Buenos Aires.
A win against the Jaguares could even earn the Brumbies a home final in Canberra if the Hurricanes upset the Crusaders in the other semi-final.
Australian rugby fans crave a good news story at the minute. If the Brumbies get beaten, attention will swiftly turn back to the Folau saga, as well as what seems like the inevitable announcement of more players leaving Australia after the World Cup to earn pounds, euros or yen.
There will be more negativity about the Wallabies too with the first Test for 2019 only three weeks away.
But if the Brumbies get through to the Super Rugby decider, the build-up will not only counter Folau Fatigue, but lend a bit of much-needed positivity leading into the Wallabies’ first Test of this World Cup year against South Africa in Johannesburg.