The «there are no winners» narrative has taken hold in the Folau case, but that’s a vague cliche.
When you get in a bare-knuckle legal fight, the adversarial nature of the process means that there are only winners and losers. When all the arguments are heard, someone wins and someone loses. Someone has credibility and someone doesn’t. And we all now know who doesn’t.
Those backing Folau’s right to freedom of speech or freedom of religion also fail to comprehend the ‘megaphone’ nature of social media.
At the absolute core of this argument were two things.
First, that Folau knew of the consequences of his actions, despite the odd claim by Nick Farr-Jones that he was never given clear boundaries as to what he could and couldn’t post. The tribunal clearly found in favour of Rugby Australia here, particularly Castle’s submission that she had «multiple» conversations with Folau or his manager and that he had acknowledged the hurt caused by last year’s post.
Second, that Rugby Australia wasn’t denying Folau freedom of religion.
The killer line from Castle on Friday was: «We have many players that quote the Bible on their social media platforms, as Mr Folau did for the first nine months of his new contract.»
While it has been widely reported that Folau will take further legal action, it is hard to see where he might go given the above two points.
Those backing Folau’s right to freedom of speech or freedom of religion also fail to comprehend the «megaphone» nature of social media.
If Folau had made his comments about homosexuals, fornicators, etc inside his church, and a recording was taken by another party and was made public, RA would have been on incredibly thin ice pursuing his dismissal.
While they may have objected to his comments, trying to sack him would have crossed a line because it would have effectively meant they were going inside the walls of his place of worship and penalising him for something he said in that environment.
However, with Instagram and those public platforms, Folau has made the decision to step outside his church and transmit his views to the world. There is a difference here.
The issue of Castle’s credibility is also central to her ability to continue in the role.
Undoubtedly, there will be those who seek her dismissal with renewed vigour. But let’s be frank here, this has been going on in some sections of the media anyway.
Castle is held responsible for every poor decision that Rugby Australia has made during the past 15 years, never mind the fact that the Kiwis think the revitalised Junior Wallabies team could win the Junior World Championships this year.
In other words, some of the more trenchant criticism can be put in the «hot air» category.
So, the fundamental issue pertaining to her future is whether Castle alone was effectively led up the garden path by Folau.
The answer here is no: there seemed to be a consensus at Rugby Australia/Wallabies/Waratahs level that Folau would pull his head in for the greater good. Collective decision; collective responsibility.
On that point it has been noticeable how front and centre Andrew Hore and Michael Cheika have been throughout the controversy.
This does not get Castle off the hook entirely but it does provide some context as the microscope now turns to the chief executive.
Castle was careful not to indulge in any verbal fist pumps on Friday.
Yet, it was clear that she has taken this whole affair personally and was painfully aware of the consequences she would face had Rugby Australia not won the fight.
That was clear in her language in describing Folau.
It wasn’t «Israel», it wasn’t «Izzy», it was «Mr Folau».
Not a Wallabies star, not world rugby identity, just a former employee she had taken on – and beaten.
Paul Cully is a rugby columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.