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Folau hit with high-level breach as RA hearing concludes

The panel of John West, QC, Kate Eastman, SC, and John Boultbee, AM, could still decide that a fine and a suspension would suffice, even if that appears unlikely at this stage.

Both parties will now go away and give written submissions to the panel about what they believe is an appropriate punishment but the writing appears to be on the wall for the talented footballer.

Awaiting his fare: Israel Folau leaves a Sydney law firm on Tuesday.

Awaiting his fare: Israel Folau leaves a Sydney law firm on Tuesday.Credit:AAP

“The panel has today provided a judgement that Israel Folau committed a high-level breach of the Professional Players’ Code of Conduct with his social media posts on April 10, 2019,” read an RA statement released on Tuesday evening.

“The panel will now take further written submissions from the parties to consider the matter of sanction.

“A further update will be provided after the panel delivers its decision on sanction.”

Folau posted a photo on social media last month that said homosexuals, among other groups such as drunks and atheists, were destined for hell unless they repented.

It looked like both parties would have to come back for a fourth day of proceedings but that did not eventuate as Folau left ANZ Tower in the Sydney CBD just before 6pm without commenting.

RA will view this latest development as a major win but are well aware that, no matter what punishment is announced, Folau could still lodge an appeal.

Waiting game: Folau's wife, Super Netball star Maria, was by her husband's side on Tuesday.

Waiting game: Folau’s wife, Super Netball star Maria, was by her husband’s side on Tuesday.Credit:AAP

The 30-year-old and his team have 72 hours after a verdict is handed down to request an appeal, which would have to be heard by an entirely new panel.

Early indications suggest that is what will happen but the length of the hearing and subsequent findings of a high-level breach could be a major blow for Folau’s team.

RA was always confident of a favourable outcome and clearly the panel agreed.

According to RA’s code of conduct, the panel, when deciding a punishment, can take into account any “aggravating or mitigating factors”.

These include things such as previous disicplinary record, character and “remorse for the conduct including the timing of such remorse including any steps taken to rectify any wrongdoing”.

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Earlier, Folau arrived for day three of the hearing in slick fashion. The Audi was back, driving into an underground car park away from a number of television cameras waiting on Castlereagh Street.

Tuesday’s proceedings were not expected to take the entire day but the same was said for Sunday before news filtered through that a third day was required for lawyers on both sides to argue their respective points of view.

Meanwhile, Melbourne Rebels playmaker Quade Cooper was quizzed about his former teammate’s fate on Tuesday before an announcement but played a straight bat to questions.

“You feel for anyone who is going through a difficult patch in their life but for us we have to focus on the Melbourne Rebels,” Cooper said.

Asked if he could see circumstances where Folau would be welcomed back by teammates who have spoken out against him, Cooper said: “I’m not too sure. That’s something you would need to speak to Bernard [Foley], Nick Phipps, Michael Hooper and those guys about that.”

Folau has been stood down from playing commitments and that is set to continue indefinitely, even if he has been training privately by himself.

The decision comes after Waratahs chairman Roger Davis told the Herald he wanted to see a resolution sooner rather than later.

“This is a no-win situation for the game and fans and I’d like to see it resolved as quickly as possible,” Davis said. “I think a settlement is a commonsense approach … it would be smart.”

Tom Decent is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald

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