Flat White

The Israel Folau affair: Kafka – or John le Carré?

21 May 2019

8:04 PM

21 May 2019

8:04 PM

In the midst of the coalition’s ‘miraculous’ come from behind win at the federal election was the news that Israel Folau has been sacked by Rugby Australia. Subsequently, he had 72 hours to appeal their decision. However, that time period has now lapsed since Folau said that:

I simply do not have confidence in Rugby Australia’s ability to treat me fairly or lawfully throughout this process.

How did we get to the point where Super Rugby’s all-time pleading try-scorer is found guilty of a high-level breach of contract—for paraphrasing a verse of the Bible—but he has no confidence that he will receive justice or a fair trial from the same governing body? Well, I have a theory. And as far as conspiracies go, I think this one might just cut the mustard.

And that is, Raelene Castle is an undercover agent, a mole, for the All Blacks, burrowing towards the very centre of Australian rugby. By the way, this has got nothing to do with her denials of being the ‘architect’ of the salary cap fiasco, which occurred while she was CEO of the Canterbury Bulldogs.

My thesis exclusively relates to her leadership of the Wobblies, I meant, Wallabies. Just stop and think about it for a second. Not only does she self-identify as a “proud Kiwi”, wears enough black to confuse an Emo, but with the sacking of Israel Folau, she has now all but destroyed whatever chance we had in the World Cup.

My only question is why didn’t any of us see this before? But, maybe they did. Because, somewhat ironically, Peter FitzSimons—clearly no supporter of religious faith or Folau—wrote back in 2017 when Castle was first made CEO of Rugby Australia:

It surely is odd, to have someone at the helm of Australian rugby whose heart, as Andrew Webster reported, “undeniably rests with rugby union and the All Blacks”.

Personally, I thought the line from Herald letter-writer Robyn Lewis, interesting: “To be effective in an important role such as the ARU the chief executive should have been immersed in the culture at all levels for a long period of time.”

I would have thought so too – understanding the lie of the land intuitively, without needing to consult a map, would have seemed a big start…

So, we will see. Good luck to her. And farewell to Bill Pulver who, despite his critics, took on a very difficult job, inheriting an entirely unaffordable infrastructure, pared it back here, amputated there, and leaves the game at least financially healthier than he was.

I actually think FitzSimons was right to raise these concerns. I know, I know. Just seeing those words on the page is horribly disconcerting. But as they say, even a broken clock still gives you the right time two times a day…except in this instance, FitzSimons is correct in three distinct ways.

First, how can someone be the head of a cultural sporting institution and say that their heart belongs to our chief opponent? I’m tempted to quote a passage of Scripture at this point about the impossibility of serving two masters but I’m possibly going to be flying Qantas later in the year, and I don’t want any potential problems with missing baggage. So, let’s just say, that it’s kind of like when an Australian politician is caught out having a historical dual-citizenship. Except the difference with Ms Castle is that she’s completely aware of it.

Second, following on from this, has Rugby Australia’s latest CEO “been immersed in the culture at all levels for a long period of time”? Significantly, Rugby.com.au provides the following summary of her sporting pedigree:

Born in Wagga Wagga, NSW, but a proud Kiwi, Castle was born into a famous sporting family.

Castle’s father, Bruce, skippered the New Zealand rugby league team in 1967, having made his debut for the Kiwis in 1961.

Her mother, Marlene, was a New Zealand Lawn Bowls champion for 16 years and represented her country at four Commonwealth Games – winning one silver medal and two bronze.

Castle followed in her parents’ footsteps, proving to be an accomplished lawn bowls, netball and tennis player in her youth.

Hmmm, she grew up to be “accomplished” at lawn bowls … netball … and tennis. That is actually really helpful and explains so much! Because Castle has brought exactly the same culture of aggression to the Wallabies as you would normally see on any bowling green or netball court. “Penalty. Contact, Goal Attack”!

All which brings me to my third and final point. And that is money. In farewelling Bill Pulver, FitzSimons summarised his subdued and innocuous legacy as follows:

Despite his critics, took on a very difficult job, inheriting an entirely unaffordable infrastructure, pared it back here, amputated there, and leaves the game at least financially healthier than he was.

Well, at least Pulver left the institution of Rugby Australia in a healthier financial state than when he first came to it. But will the same be said in memoriam of Castle? It doesn’t seem likely. Especially not when the former Wallaby Captain, Nick Farr-Jones, has already offered cheap world cup tickets to anyone who wants them. Speaking to Andrew Bolt, Farr-Jones went so far as to say:

What this is causing, viz-a-viz, a divide amongst fans… a divide amongst just the game in general… the other sports must be laughing at us. It’s a train wreck. I’ve got some cheap tickets for the world cup matches in October if anyone wants to offer me for them.

So, there you have it. And as far as conspiracy theories go I don’t think I’m all that far off. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that Elvis is still alive. And I also think that man really did land on the moon. But whether or not Raelene Castle might actually be an undercover agent for the All-Blacks… well, I’m really not so sure.

Mark Powell is the Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Strathfield.

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