War with Folau’s backers averted
THE two former Wallabies who've signed affidavits supporting Israel Folau's legal case are no longer employed by Rugby Australia, easing fears of a civil war should the matter proceed to trial next February.
The revelation comes as RA boss Raelene Castle set tongues wagging when she sat down for coffee with former soccer and rugby league chief David Gallop Thursday.
Castle and Gallop met for an hour, although the subject of Gallop potentially taking over as RA chairman from the departing Cameron Clyne never came up.
Stream Wales v Barbarians LIVE & On-Demand with beIN SPORTS on Kayo. Get your 14-day free trial and start streaming instantly >
Castle also met with recent critic and television supremo David Leckie, and as the two meetings overlapped and Gallop and Leckie are old friends, the trio had a brief interaction.
Castle is said to have "smoked the piece pipe" with Leckie after his strong criticisms of her leadership and the actions of the RA board amid the Folau crisis, the Wallabies' World Cup disaster and uncertainty surrounding their next broadcast deal.
Gallop has been touted as a suitable candidate for the RA chair given his long history in sports administration, however it's understood he is seeking full-time employment elsewhere and given board members aren't paid it would be an unlikely scenario.
Sources said Castle and Gallop have met three to four times a year for some time, sharing ideas on leadership and strategy.
The next few weeks represent a stern challenge of Castle's management skills amid chaos. She flies to Melbourne for Monday's mediation session with Folau and his legal representatives at the Federal Circuit Court.
On Wednesday, Folau filed an amended statement of claim seeking $14 million, up from his original request of $10 million, for lost earnings after his contract was torn up for homophobic social media posts.
Folau claimed he could have captained the Wallabies and that would have allowed him to earn up to six figures for 25 years after retirement, hence the increase.
Folau's lawyers said they've obtained "multiple" affidavits from Folau's former Wallaby teammates, who are now overseas, to help his case.
Their statements are believed to back the claims of Folau's lawyers that his reintroduction to the Wallabies following the social media scandal would not have impacted team harmony.
However, RA has been told by other Wallaby players they were strongly opposed to Folau returning to the side, given he'd made a similarly controversial social media comment the previous year that had affected preparations.
Whether RA intends to call players to make affidavits on this issue remains to be seen.
It is confident in its case that this was an employment contract issue that threatened the financial state of the game and is essentially unrelated to team harmony.
The other issue for Castle is the apparent breakdown of negotiations with partner Fox Sports for the broadcast rights running from 2021-25.
RA is now in talks with Optus about a deal for streaming rights, while Channel 10 could feature as the free-to-air partner for some Super Rugby and Test matches.