When Israel Folau tells his Instagram followers that homosexuals will go to hell if they fail to "repent", he does so from a position of authority.

Not moral authority — unless you believe a footballer using his social media profile to impose personal religious values on a country that wholeheartedly (if belatedly) embraced same sex marriage last year is particularly compelling.

But three times a year Folau represents the Wallabies in Bledisloe Cup games. So no one can dispute the 29-year-old has first-hand experience of the concept of eternal damnation.

Of course, for Rugby Australia, Folau's cyber-moralising is about as funny as its latest A$3.8 million operating loss because his religious convictions have put the governing body in another awkward position.


With Folau's A$1 million contract expiring at the end of the year, the RA must decide whether to mollycoddle its most valuable player for fear of losing him to league, or ensure the game lives up to the values of "inclusion" it has preached while trying to regain a foothold in a fiercely competitive multi-code football market.

To add some spice to an already delicate situation, Alan Joyce, the chief executive of the Wallabies' major sponsor Qantas, is both gay and, as he demonstrated during Australia's same sex marriage debate, a gay rights advocate.

So it is not too presumptuous to suggest that when Qantas sits down to renegotiate the lucrative deal, Joyce is not likely to forget the Wallabies' best player believes he has an economy class seat to the eternal abyss.

Folau's situation has created — to labour the religious analogies — a baptism of fire for RA chief executive Raelene Castle whose appointment last year was already the source of deep suspicion among those traditionalists who were not ready to have someone of her type lead the game. (They were fine with a woman, but — goddammit! — Castle is a bloody Kiwi.)

Three times a year Israel Folau represents the Wallabies in Bledisloe Cup games. So no one can dispute the 29-year-old has first-hand experience of the concept of eternal damnation.

RA's initial efforts have not done much to bridge the gap between those who found Folau's comments deeply offensive and those defending his supposed "right to free speech". Particularly Castle's remark that "maybe he could have put a positive spin on the same message and done it in a more respectful way".

Which naturally had people wondering: How do you put a positive spin on your claim that homosexuals will go to hell? By telling them the devil gives out excellent gift bags or hell won't be that much hotter than Earth when global warming kicks in?

Not lost on those who were offended by Folau's comments is that the star fullback's wife, Maria, is playing for the Silver Ferns at the Commonwealth Games.

It is certainly unfair to visit the sins of the husband upon the wife. But when the Silver Ferns lost to Malawi, a team so obscure not even Jarryd Hayne has played for them yet, there was a certain sense of schadenfreude.


Meanwhile, circling Israel Folau like sharks on a Paleo Diet are desperate officials from the National Rugby League who have made no secret of their intention to bring the former Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos star back to their code.

The NRL proved itself a champion of universal inclusion during last year's grand final when the American rapper Macklemore performed his gay anthem Same Love in the middle of Australia's same sex marriage plebiscite. So there is no way the NRL would take on Folau unless he gave a firm undertaking to embrace the causes the NRL espouses so strongly.

Just kidding!

In truth, you only need to run an eye over the Brisbane Broncos team that will take on the unbeaten Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium tonight to understand the NRL's decision making sometimes has all the integrity of a pub tipping competition. (Why does that same barman always win?)

That prop Matthew Lodge was registered to play for the Broncos this season despite not even trying to pay the US$1.234 million in compensation he owes a family after a violent rampage in New York was disturbing. That the NRL claims it also considered a domestic violence conviction against Lodge before rubber stamping his return is mindboggling.

Yet so inconsistent is the NRL's approach to such matters, it will be less surprising seeing Lodge up front for the Broncos tonight than Kiwi Neil Finn centre stage for Fleetwood Mac on their next tour.

Coincidentally, Lodge is managed by high profile agent Isaac Moses who also handles Folau's affairs. Moses has a good relationship with NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg, something that might send a shiver down the spine of already nervous ARU officials.

One thing seems clear. Before Folau signs with the Wallabies he is going to put Australian rugby through hell.

• Richard Hinds is a leading Australian sports commentator.