Folau’s captaincy claim is a smokescreen as mediation looms


So what is behind his extraordinary claim, in court documents lodged as part of his unlawful termination fight with Rugby Australia and the NSW Waratahs, that he might have captained Australia to a World Cup win and has – therefore – been robbed of up to $14 million in lost earnings over the latter stages of his career and post-rugby life?

There were a few theories doing the rounds of the rugby and legal circles on Wednesday, when the amended statement of claim was published on the Federal Circuit Court’s website.

Legal representative for Israel Folau, George Faros, left.Credit:AAP

Timing is key. The case is set down for mediation in Melbourne on Monday, a session that both Folau and RA boss Raelene Castle will attend with their legal teams.

It is not the first time a court date has been preceded by a flurry of media coverage and some sensational claims.

The day before the case’s debut in court – a directions hearing in Melbourne in August – Folau’s social media pages went offline. The blanket coverage that ensued of the unexplained outage wrested attention away from the Wallabies’ sensational Test win over New Zealand three days prior and back on to Folau.

This time the message was more pointed. Aside from the captaincy line, Folau’s amended statement of claim and the interview with his solicitor, George Haros, contained four more new or newly-detailed points. First, that at least 15 teammates and coaching staff had voiced their support for him; second, that a senior player had warned Castle and Cheika that Folau’s sacking would split the team; third, that senior Wallabies had provided affidavits (and therefore could be called before an open court in February); and, fourth, that Folau’s team was going hard after the alleged bias of one of the panel members that originally ordered the fullback’s sacking.

It is not the first time a court date has been preceded by a flurry of media coverage and some sensational claims.

It was explosive stuff and has ratcheted up the heat on RA as they collect their thoughts and strategise ahead of mediation.

There is also the theory that, by pumping up the lost earnings claim from $10 million in June to $14 million, any likely settlement figure the parties might agree upon would be higher. It’s a classic negotiation tactic.

How Folau’s legal team backs up the lost earnings claim is another matter. His solicitor George Haros said in Melbourne on Wednesday that they would rely on “expert evidence”.

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But compensation for lost earnings arguments have a chequered history in Australia and in Folau’s case there is no suggestion his experience here would stop him from playing overseas in French, English or Japanese rugby.

More likely, the latest instalment in the Folau saga was just that. More positioning, and perhaps more important than ever before, after the dual code international’s damaging comments about the bushfire victims last week.

Haros finished his brief media appearance with the following statement, unsolicited: “I don’t want to make any comment specifically about the sermon other than to say that, after having spoken to Israel, it was not his attention to offend any victims of the bushfires”.

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