Dumped rugby star Israel Folau will assert his dismissal cost him the chance to become the Wallabies’ greatest try scorer and the best years of his career, as part of his damages claim against Rugby Australia and the NSW Waratahs.
Lawyers for Folau on Thursday lodged an unfair dismissal claim with the Fair Work Commission against his former employers.
Folau will argue that under the Fair Work Act his employment was unlawfully terminated because of his religion.
The 30-year-old dual international is seeking the value of his AU$5 million ($3.5 million) contract as well as other potential earnings following his participation in this year’s Rugby World Cup.
A source close to Folau said the figure was still being considered but could be as much as AU$10 million ($7 million), which could reportedly bankrupt the sporting bodies.
Before his contract was torn up he set a new record this season for most tries scored in Super Rugby history, and is the Wallabies’ joint-third highest try scorer with 37 tries, behind David Campese who scored 64.
His application claims he had this record mark in sight.
“The termination has cost Folau the best years of his rugby career, participation at the Rugby World Cup, the chance to become the greatest Wallaby try-scorer (a decades-old record he was likely to break), and the associated exposure and opportunities,” the dispute application stated.
“As well as around $5 million ($3.5 million) in lost salary, Folau will claim in respect of the loss of these opportunities (renewal of the contract, sponsorships, etc).
“The damages will be particularised in due course, but will be substantial. In addition, Folau will seek civil penalties.”
It was not specified what those civil penalties were.
Folau’s application stated his employment was terminated because of his religion and included nine reasons to illustrate this.
A member of the Truth of Jesus Christ Church, part of the reasoning was that “as a manifestation of Folau’s religion, he is compelled to communicate the word of God and the message contained within the Bible (Biblical Teachings)”
It said that in this context he “communicated certain Biblical Teachings on his personal Instagram account.”
RA and the Waratahs demanded he remove the post, which he refused to do so which led to his termination.
Folau said in a statement he felt he had no choice but to pursue legal action, and stand up for his beliefs and the rights of all Australians.
But Rugby Australia was adamant it was right to sack Folau.
“This is an issue of an employee and his obligations to his employers within the contract that he signed,” RA said in a statement.