August 2019

Essays

Malcolm Knox

Hellraiser

Israel Folau, 2017. © Steve Christo / Corbis via Getty Images

How evangelical footballer Israel Folau lit a fire under the culture wars

On a winter’s Saturday morning, on sporting fields marked out for rugby union, amid the referees’ whistles and the grunting bodies and the confusing morass of ruck and maul, one fact is visible. Rugby has room for everyone. Slow, overweight, low-to-the-ground types; lumbering giants without ball skills; annoying little terriers; gifted runners and kickers; even gazelles who can run fast and don’t like getting hurt. A specialist position is designed for every shape, size and ability. Union remains distinguished from its break-away cousin, rugby league, by the old saying: league is created for those who watch, but union is created for those who play.

So much for inclusiveness. As for Inclusiveness, that’s a mixed bag. Australian rugby union carries a slogan – “Part of More” – to emphasise its aim to expand beyond its traditional base of white, mainly private-­school males. The women’s game is growing, and while self-identifying lesbian players abound, openly gay male rugby players remain few.

Andrew Purchas was a teammate of mine at Sydney University back in the 1980s. At 195 centimetres and close to 95 kilograms, he was a fearless second-row forward. He came out some years later and founded Australia’s first gay rugby team, the Sydney Convicts, which plays in the international Bingham Cup.

While so much has changed in the world outside rugby, and rugby officials are supportive, Purchas still cannot think of one current gay professional in any football code, let alone rugby. Australian rugby league player Ian Roberts came out in 1995. None before or since. At new-player nights for the Convicts, Purchas says, “We had about 50 newcomers this year, aged from 19 to early 30s, and they said that if the Convicts didn’t exist, they wouldn’t feel welcome at other clubs.” Homophobic behaviour “is nowhere near as bad as it used to be, but a lot of gay players stop playing at early ages because it’s a hypermasculine environment and you don’t want your sexuality to be obvious. The language is a barrier.” By which he means, a player who makes a mistake is called not just weak or stupid, but a weak or stupid “faggot”.

Racially, union is evolving a visible inclusiveness. Pacific Islanders are conspicuous in Australian rugby union, especially among the elite. Juniors of Islander background are often larger and faster for their age than their peers. The increasing dominance of Islander juniors has led to a push for children to play against size rather than age. (It’s quite something to see a 13-year-old Islander the size of a large adult bulldoze through 15 average-sized pre-pubescents.)

Despite the presence of Pacific Islander footballers, racial stereotyping is common. Islanders provide the beef and the speed, but Anglo males still predominate in leadership, strategic, ball-playing and coaching positions. In New Zealand, where rugby is the dominant sport and the Pacific Islander presence generations ahead of Australia, the colour bar is still observable. Journalist Chris Rattue of the New Zealand Herald says, “Our apparent progressive attitude is surface. Dig underneath and you will find something very different … We have never had a person of Māori heritage as head coach of the All Blacks, which for a so-called progressive country is fairly strange, considering Māori involvement in sport.”

As with gay players, the language is a barrier. You hear, on those rugby grounds, some players described as “dumb”. Others are “dumb coconuts”. Why aren’t there more Islander captains and coaches? Rugby people tell you that Islanders are shy, naturally quiet. Until the rugby player with the highest profile and the most valuable gifts in Australia, a reticent young man from a Tongan-­Australian Christian family, decided not to be quiet any more, and all hell broke loose.


In April 2018, an Instagram follower of Israel Folau asked the international rugby star what was “God’s plan for homosexuals”. Folau’s views on homosexuality were already known. The previous year, before the same-sex marriage postal vote, Rugby Australia had declared its support for the Yes case. David Pocock, the former national captain, had refused to marry his girlfriend until same-sex marriage was Australian law. Folau, in response to Rugby Australia’s statement, wrote on Twitter in 2017, “I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions. But personally, I will not support gay marriage.”

Folau’s language had changed by April 2018. Locking his caps, he replied to the question on Instagram: “HELL… UNLESS THEY REPENT OF THEIR SINS AND TURN TO GOD.”

The public uproar was immediate, and Folau’s employer, after some initial unanswered calls, met him to convey their displeasure. What exactly was agreed remains contentious. Rugby Australia’s chief executive, Raelene Castle, said publicly that while the organisation did not agree with Folau’s views – their chief sponsor, Qantas, had strongly condemned him – they accepted his religious freedom. Folau said his words were spoken with love, based on one of St Paul’s letters to the Corinthians: “Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Being warned by his boss did not stop Folau from speaking his mind or quoting the Bible. On April 16, 2018, he posted a piece on the PlayersVoice website. PlayersVoice, of which Folau was a founding contributor, is popular among sportspeople as a channel for unmediated connection with their public. Journalists working for the site are less inquirers than ghostwriters. In describing his meetings with Castle and NSW rugby boss Andrew Hore, Folau wrote: “During the meeting I told them it was never my intention to hurt anyone with the Instagram comment, but that I could never shy away from who I am, or what I believe. They explained their position and talked about external pressure from the media, sponsors and different parts of the community, which I understand.” Then he set down a sentence that would later haunt him: “After we’d all talked, I told Raelene if she felt the situation had become untenable – that I was hurting Rugby Australia, its sponsors and the Australian rugby community to such a degree that things couldn’t be worked through – I would walk away from my contract, immediately.”

Folau was coming towards the end of his existing Rugby Australia contract. In October 2018, the governing body demonstrated its desire to keep him by offering a new four-year deal worth around $4 million, maintaining his status as Australia’s highest-paid player. Folau, who was in the northern hemisphere representing Australia in the national Wallabies team, was sent the contract, but it did not include a clause dealing specifically with his use of social media. Wanting to give him a complete contract containing that clause, Castle followed Folau to Japan, where he did not meet her, and then to London, where he did. The contract with the social media clause was not signed, but Castle sent Folau emails and took notes from their London meeting documenting how she made it explicit that he was not to repeat his April 2018 posts or anything similar. He signed a new contract in February 2019. Whether Castle’s verbal and written communications were an effective substitute for a clause in the contract, and how these fit into workplace law, would turn this humble rugby player into a test case for the future of industrial relations and freedom of speech.


Who was this Israel Folau, the Australian Islander who no longer held his tongue, who defied his bosses but was rewarded with a fabulous contract? Born in 1989 in the Sydney suburb of Minto to Tongan parents, Folau was an unusually itinerant professional footballer. He attended school in Sydney and, from age 15, Brisbane. It was league’s Melbourne Storm who gave the Australian Schoolboys representative his first job. With Melbourne, he played two grand finals in the National Rugby League, represented Australia while still a teenager, and then defected to the Brisbane Broncos for a big-money offer, saying he wanted to be closer to his Brisbane-based family.

Within two years, proximity to family was less of a draw. The Australian Football League’s expansion into Sydney with the Greater Western Sydney Giants wanted a household name and a role model to attract young Pacific Islander athletes from the rugby codes. Folau’s move to the Giants was worth $1.5 million a year. It was widely perceived as a publicity stunt. He played 13 AFL games in two seasons, was unable to translate his skills to the new sport, and his marketing appeal failed to justify the salary. In late 2012 he jumped codes again, this time to rugby union’s NSW Waratahs.

Union was fast changing its culture, and could see Folau as an obvious poster boy. For Folau, union held the added prestige of an international audience. While a minor sport within Australia, union dwarfs the other codes globally. Folau could appear in national colours in packed stadia in London, Paris, Buenos Aires, Tokyo and Auckland, enjoying exposure the more insular codes could never offer. Rugby Australia, steadily losing ground to the NRL and AFL domestically, has a top-down marketing strategy, holding that a successful Wallabies international team will be its own advertisement. Folau, on another seven-figure annual salary, sometimes justified it with stellar performances for the Wallabies and the Waratahs.

Folau’s religious affiliations were also fast-moving. After growing up in the Mormon church, he joined the Pentecostal Assemblies of God in 2011. Known as an occasional hellraiser in his rugby league and AFL years, Folau was born again, a devout daily Bible reader for whom Christ’s teachings were “the cornerstone of every single thing in my life”, as he told PlayersVoice. A member of an evangelical church, he was committed to sharing his views. “I believe that it is a loving gesture to share passages from the Bible with others.”

Evangelicalism would become the pivot of Folau’s religious development. His father, Eni Folau, split from the Assemblies of God around 2017 to found The Truth of Jesus Christ Church in the suburb of Kenthurst, in Sydney’s north-western Bible belt, and another branch in Brisbane. This coincided with not only a hardening of Israel Folau’s Christian beliefs but also his determination to evangelise. Evangelical churches rest broadly on four pillars: belief in the literal Bible; the example of Christ’s atonement; death and resurrection symbolised by the cross, validating the experience of being “born again” at any stage of life; and the duty to actively try to convert others. For many evangelicals, believing is inseparable from preaching. While, as Western Sydney University religions specialist Professor Cristina Rocha says, the “private” practise of religion is incompatible for some evangelicals and not others – Pentecostalism is “not a homogeneous religious movement” – the public practise of religious belief has “played a central role in the nation’s politics throughout much of the 20th and 21st centuries even though we think of ourselves as a secular society”. She cites Kevin Rudd’s propensity for being photographed outside churches, and Tony Abbott’s conservative Catholic views on issues such as stem-cell research and euthanasia. “Just to throw a spanner in the works, why does Folau have to keep his views for himself when politicians such as Abbott are free to legislate on women’s reproductive rights, and Malcolm Turnbull gave us the same-sex marriage [vote], whose campaign … hurt the LGBTIQ community? I do understand that politicians are elected and Folau represents Rugby Australia, but want to make the point that religion is not always a private matter and is in the public sphere, albeit more so in the past two decades.”

In the year after his “HELL” Instagram comment, Folau didn’t keep his religion private. He put out a steady stream of religious posts on numerous issues, which passed without comment from the wider public and Rugby Australia. And then he returned to homosexuality.


In the second week of April 2019, Folau was resting for a “bye” week in the Super Rugby season. The previous game, he had passed the Waratahs’ all-time try-­scoring record and could look forward to being one of the first chosen when Australia heads to the Rugby World Cup in Japan later in the year.

On April 9, the Tasmanian parliament became the first Australian legislature to pass a law making it optional to state a baby’s gender on their birth certificate. People aged 16 and older would also be able to revise their gender on their birth certificates. The law was celebrated by transgender groups within and outside Tasmania.

A Sydney Morning Herald sports journalist, Tom Decent, was one of Folau’s 350,000 social media followers who read a tweet from the player, on the night of April 10, a screenshot of the news from Tasmania and an objection to the law: “The devil has blindsided so many people in this world, REPENT and turn away from your evil ways.” Decent contacted his newspaper’s chief rugby reporter, Georgina Robinson, who was at dinner with a friend. Robinson asked Rugby Australia to respond to Folau’s post. They declined, but events were overtaken two hours later when Folau, on his Instagram account, re-posted a vivid meme: a “Warning” to a list of sinners – “Drunks, Homosexuals, Adulterers, Liars, Fornicators, Thieves, Atheists, Idolators” – that “HELL AWAITS YOU. REPENT!” He added his own comment: “Those that are living in Sin will end up in Hell unless you repent.”

Social media immediately lit up. The public reaction to Robinson’s report that night, and those on other mainstream news websites, was instant, with readership and comments traffic steepling to figures never seen for this niche football code. The volume of public engagement forced Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten, locked in their federal election campaign, to comment. Morrison said Folau’s comments were “insensitive” and lacked “empathy”, whereas Shorten went harder, saying Folau’s words were “far closer to hateful than I think appropriate for what people should be doing on social media”. By the weekend, commentators professional and amateur were climbing into the story, a plurality if not a majority – even in the News Corp tabloids – going against Folau.

For Andrew Purchas, Folau’s post was clearly hate speech. “Of the miscreants he listed, the only one where you don’t have a choice is your sexuality. The inference is that you are able to change. This flies in the face of all science and experience, and what Folau said equates to saying if you’re gay, you’re not ‘normal’. It’s widely known that the suicide rate among gay youth is five to six times higher than for the rest of the population. These are young people who are being told they are not ‘normal’.”

Within the rugby community, Folau widened a lurking division. Prominent senior Wallabies such as Nick Phipps, Michael Hooper, David Pocock and Will Genia spoke against him. But some Wallabies of Pacific Islander background, such as Samu Kerevi, Curtis Rona and Taniela Tupou, expressed solidarity with Folau’s “right” to speak his religious views. Rugby Australia tried to contact Folau, personally and through his manager. After Folau did not reply, Rugby Australia issued him with a notice of intent to terminate his contract. Three days later he came to a short meeting at Rugby NSW’s headquarters in the inner-city suburb of Moore Park to be told in person that he would have to show cause why he should not be sacked.

Folau was defiant, saying he wanted to continue playing rugby in Australia and would contest his sacking at a hearing before rugby’s disciplinary tribunal. On Easter Sunday, he became emotional while addressing the congregation of his father’s church at Kenthurst, quoting the gospel according to Mark: “For what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?”

Fighting his sacking was a turnaround from his PlayersVoice article where he said that if his religious statements were hurting rugby, he would “walk away”. It was reported that Eni Folau had persuaded him to take Rugby Australia on. When Israel fronted the independent three-person tribunal in May, he said he had decided to fight his termination because “God spoke to me”.

On the Herald website, Tom Decent’s “God spoke to me” exclusive became the first rugby story to generate more than 1000 comments from the public. If the events of April 2019 showed anything, it was the obsolescence of the distinction between “media” and “social media” narratives. Both forms would now begin recirculating and echoing each other in an unstoppable positive feedback loop. Chasing the honeypot of readership numbers, columnists, politicians, bloggers, Twitterati – pretty much every keyboard warrior and their dog – were piling on. Numbers bred more numbers, size bred greater size, and the winner-takes-all pattern of contemporary consumerism repeated itself. “Folau stories have gone crazy in [New Zealand as well],” Chris Rattue reports. Folau was rolled-gold clickbait. Rugby union was out-rating Donald Trump.

Folau was no longer a rugby union story. First it broke its borders into other sports. Sam Kerr, the captain of Australia’s national women’s soccer team, wrote on Instagram that Folau’s post was “embarrassing”: “Australia, we should not let athletes or ANYONE preach this hate in our country.” The same day, the story went international. From Wales, the rugby great Gareth Thomas, who came out after his retirement, tweeted: “To everyone who reads it, don’t be influenced by his words. Be the better person and be YOU. Whoever YOU is, Hell doesn’t await YOU. Happiness awaits YOU.” More pointedly, England player James Haskell wrote on Twitter: “This is the biggest load of shit I have ever read. Sport has no place for this crap. Keep it to hate groups @IzzyFolau, you arent spreading the lords word. You are spreading hate. You are an unreal player, but a fucking misinformed bigot.” Simultaneously, it divided teams. Current England star Billy Vunipola, born in Sydney to Tongan parents, “liked” Folau’s post and wrote: “Man was made for woman to pro create that was the goal no?” Vunipola was subsequently given a formal warning and asked to desist by his employer, England’s Rugby Football Union. Ben Coles, a rugby writer from Britain’s Daily Telegraph, tells me that the governing body’s response had been “pretty swift”, but it would take a second offence by Vunipola to test their resolve. Vunipola’s club, Saracens, said in a statement: “We recognise the complexity of different belief systems and understand Billy’s intention was to express the word of God rather than cause offence. However, he made a serious error of judgement in publicly sharing his opinion, which is inconsistent with the values of the club and contravenes his contractual obligations.”

Non-sporting observers were suddenly very familiar with the name Folau. Miranda Devine in the Murdoch press warned of “coercion and bloodshed” of the kind seen in religious massacres. Folau was illustrated burning on a stake, not a perpetrator of vilification but a victim. In Guardian Australia, meanwhile, David Marr countered: “These Christians – by no means all Christians – are willing to burn up huge amounts of political capital to keep and, if possible extend, their power to punish homosexuals. It’s a weird pivot of their faith. This is not all they want the Morrison government to shore up with legislation, but it’s at the core of their demands.” Sydney Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies supported Folau’s “right as a citizen to speak of what he believes without threat to his employment”. It was widely noted that Davies’ church had urged the government to legislate to protect Anglican school headmasters’ freedom to sack gay teachers and expel gay students. Former NSW government minister Pru Goward wrote that Folau should not be punished but simply ignored, showing how far the thing had travelled away from sport when she denigrated him as a mere footballer: “He kicks a ball really well, that’s all.” (Aside: Two seasons at Greater Western Sydney showed that one of the few things Folau could not do well on a football field was kick a ball.)


There is no hope of capturing the vastness of commentary spent on Folau. It became a Rorschach test for culture warriors. The Folau case was whatever they wanted it to be. For the LGBTIQ community affected by personal experience of homophobia, it was about vilification and mental health. For a caravan of right-wing politicians, activists and opinion-shapers, it was about freedom of speech. (Alan Jones: “It has nothing to do with Israel, or rugby, or religion, homosexuals, or whatever. Where are we in this country on free speech?”) For many religious people, it was about their freedom to practise. For the legally minded, it was about contract law and a test for the Fair Work Act. For those who reduce motives to commercial greed, two cynical counter-­theories emerged: one, that Folau wanted to quit rugby and was engineering the controversy to promote and fund his father’s church; the other, that Rugby Australia could no longer afford a $4 million player whose focus had drifted from the sport, and contrived the sacking to get him off its books.

By June, the weight of wordage was causing the culture wars to buckle under their own incoherence. As Nick O’Malley wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald, the Folau debate had engendered “dormitories of strange bedfellows”. From Britain, the editor of online journal Spiked, Brendan O’Neill, an atheist, observed an irony: “Political correctness now does what pointy-­hatted priests used to do: seeks out thought criminals and moral transgressors and punishes them for their wicked beliefs.” Yet some Pentecostals, such as Hillsong’s Brian Houston, spoke out strongly against Folau’s comments. The conservative right who had attacked the hijab as an expression of religious belief were now arrayed behind Folau. Freedom-loving atheist Peter Singer was on the same side as Devine. Progressives found themselves defending employers’ power over their employees. Progressive lawyer Josh Bornstein was attacked by fellow travellers for saying Folau should not be sacked: “Sometimes you’ve got to stand up in front of a baying crowd and tell them they’re wrong,” he said on Tom Ballard’s podcast. “The increasing control that employers are imposing on employees for out-of-hours behaviour” was the issue, Bornstein said. “Employment contracts contain similar provisions, saying [you must] comply with all company policies, the code of conduct and the values of the company. You will not bring the company into disrepute … These instruments bind the individual but not the company. The hypocrisy in this debate is off the charts.”

Folau was pressing everyone’s nearest hot button. Arguing that the principal issue was race, Ruby Hamad wrote in Meanjin of the historical irony in white Christian colonisers instilling homophobic beliefs among subject peoples “only for the colonisers to then finally soften their own stances against homosexuality and decide that homophobia was yet another moral failing of the colonised”. Not wanting to find herself on the same side as Folau’s (white, Christian, conservative) defenders, Hamad turned it against all power: “People of colour are expendable in our society. So too are LGBTIQ. What better way to ensure they both remain that way than by fomenting conditions that make it all but impossible for coalition-building between them? And so the cynical debates about Folau and free speech continue, while in the background power – white power – still reigns supreme.” Alan Jones, feeling persecuted by PC police, set himself up as Folau’s champion in being free to say gay people were headed for hell, and won Folau’s first television interview, with Peta Credlin, on Sky on June 27. Folau, the pious centre of the storm, remained quaintly unaware of having done anything offensive because, after all, he meant nothing “personally”.

A new twist came at the end of that month, when this sporting multimillionaire, whose earnings were invested in an expansive property portfolio in the eastern capitals, set up a GoFundMe appeal aiming to raise $3 million to pay his anticipated legal fees. He had let his three-week period to appeal his sacking lapse, turning instead to a challenge in the Federal Court under the Fair Work Act. Donors both rich and poor threw funds Folau’s way. After it was pointed out that GoFundMe had strict rules against vilification, the company cancelled Folau’s campaign and returned the money. The Australian Christian Lobby was there to catch it, however, and its own fundraising campaign hit $2 million within two days, upon which the ACL, recognising the narrowing of the needle’s eye for their pet camel, capped the appeal.

At time of writing, the Folau matter is waiting for a listing date in the Federal Court. At the required arbitration meeting, Folau, who had stated his intention to sue Rugby Australia for $10 million, which could bankrupt the code, asked for an “apology”. It was not forthcoming.


The whole morass certainly seems to tell us something about our society, but what? That a rugby player speaking about an imagined punishment in a fictitious place can cause so much disruption? Yes, wrote an exasperated Tim Soutphommasane: “We can expect to see more iterations of these battles, especially in the realms of popular culture. It has become part of the contemporary conservative mindset to believe that if you want political power, you must first change the culture – that ‘politics is downstream from culture’.”

It also showed that religion still matters, publicly, in multicultural Australia. As Cristina Rocha puts it: “The idea that religion is a private matter derives from Protestantism and is not consistent with reality. Religion has always been in the public sphere – in religious schools, hospitals and legislation.” Two weeks after supporting the “private” practise of religion, Scott Morrison took a starring role in the Hillsong annual conference.

The incivility of social media had its part to play too. The reaction to the Folau sacking was a case study in inarticulate disagreement that came out as an echo chamber of hate speech. For someone who consistently claimed to mean no offence, Folau caused more whenever he opened his mouth. When it came to expressing himself, Folau was no Thomas Keneally. Words persistently failed him.

Was the culture wars pile-on peculiarly Australian? “I’d say it’s a universal thing,” says British journalist Ben Coles. From New Zealand, Chris Rattue says that while the Kiwi rugby community would have kept its divisions more in-house, society was ambivalent in the same way. “I’ve also noticed a tone with many people here that they are uneasy with the cumulative assault on [Folau],” Rattue says, “even though they don’t agree with his views and may even believe he should be sacked. This is tempering people’s response to what he posted. Everyone has a right to their view, and everyone has a way of getting it out there these days. But the overall result of this can feel like bullying.”

Unease flows from contradictions, and Rugby Australia saved its own best contradiction till last. The ark of Australian sport finds room for all kinds of miscreants, often in multiples. It includes convicted rapists, thugs, derelict fathers and domestic abusers. There are confessed cheats of every stripe: drug cheats, match-­fixers, problem gamblers, salary-cap swindlers. There are bizarre individuals who simulate sex with a dog or who urinate in their own mouth, who can’t restrain themselves when drunk from peeing in the street or running around naked in public. There is not much you can do that renders you unfit to travel in that vessel. But here was a clean-living, happily married young man, a role model for children and a standard-bearer for his community, who was thrown out of Australian sport for paraphrasing sacred words from an ancient text. Because the cause-effect chain that flows from Folau’s words to a young gay boy taking his life is, to many people, abstract, they find it hard to square his banishment with the case of another rugby star, James O’Connor, who was exiled from the Wallabies for five years after being charged with cocaine possession, being so drunk he was thrown off a domestic flight, and sundry other offences. In July, having lost Folau, the Wallabies targeted a new outside back for their World Cup plans: a forgiven, repentant James O’Connor.

On those rugby fields around the country, what do you hear most about Folau? Not really a moral condemnation, but a realpolitik pragmatism given voice by Rugby Australia chairman Cameron Clyne, who told The Sydney Morning Herald on June 28 that if it didn’t sack Folau, “We’d have no sponsors at all because no sponsor has indicated they would be willing to be associated with social media posts of that sort, and that includes government, because we’ve also heard from them. We would also potentially be in litigation with employees who are gay and who would say we’re not providing a workplace that is safe or respectful.”

In rugby, there’s less outrage than acceptance that Folau broke the rules of a changing world. Religious homophobia is like a lifting tackle, something that used to be allowed but now earns a red card. It’s a managerial view. Clyne said, “We do allow religious freedom but what we don’t allow is disparagement.” You are free to hold your beliefs but we ask you to keep them to yourself. But what if the core of your religious belief is the disparagement of others? What if your God says you must go public? If that is what your God tells you, the fundamental incompatibility – religious expression and disparagement – cannot be resolved.

By mid-winter, a Folau-fatigue had set in (though any Folau stories continued to draw big numbers on media websites). The fatigue worries Andrew Purchas. “The gay community became a bit war-weary after the same-sex marriage debate,” he says. “There is also a big divide between middle-aged gay men who have come through it all a long time ago, and younger people from different backgrounds who are going through those challenges now.”

There are larger forces underneath the Folau mania that do not grow fatigued. The federal government is considering discrimination legislation with the potential to change Australia forever, in fundamental ways if it yields to conservative demands for a specific religious freedom act. The outcome of Folau’s Federal Court case might alter workplace law for millions. While politics is often downstream from culture, they are both proxies for the deep forces that rumble on, and will be with us long after one footballer’s name has faded from memory.

Malcolm Knox

Malcolm Knox is a former literary editor of the Sydney Morning Herald and has won two Walkley awards for journalism. His books include Jamaica and The Life.

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