For a game still staggering around, bloodied and woozy, in the wake of last years Super Rugby rationalisation, the potential for the code to become some kind of freedom of speech test case gave the board and Castle serious cause for concern.
On the flip side, tiptoe around Folau and they risked alienating a different, but no less significant, part of the playing population and fan base.
Or worse, taring themselves as willing patsies to their highest profile player.
What of Folau? He showed his hand this week with a lengthy and illuminating explanation of the role of religion in his life. He also took a swipe at his boss, Castle, and revealed that, while he loved rugby, he was willing to walk away from it – from anything – rather than compromise his faith.
Where it gets interesting is where the two positions meet.
RA could not have been softer on Folau, their model student who made a rare, but ugly, gaffe. And yet sections of Folaus camp are persisting with the line that Castle made a fatal transgression when she suggested the fullback regretted “some grief” his comment caused. Please.
Castles only transgression was not defending the games inclusion policy as strongly as she defended Folau in that April 10 media conference. If she did put conciliatory words in his mouth after waxing lyrical about his religious fortitude, she did him a favour.
Because "brand Folau", post-Instagram outburst, has lost some of its lustre. The dual international will continue to be in demand in both rugby codes, here and overseas. But the phone wont ring as hot from the same companies that once clamoured to have his likeness attached to their products.
He is now widely known to hold ultra-conservative views. More than that – for he is not the first deeply religious/conservative/progressive person to play top level sport – Folaus conduct suggests he is prone to expressing those views clumsily and be defiant when called to account.
It was surely not their intention, but this turn of events has left all parties in some clear air. In coming months Folau and Castle will meet again to talk about his playing future. Folau has come under enormous fire in the past three weeks, but none of it has come from Castle, RA, NSW chief executive Andrew Hore or the Waratahs coaching staff and playing group. They have wrapped their inclusion policy around him.
So now the ball is in Folaus court. Does he want to stay in Australian rugby?
The episode has been damaging for Castle, who is approaching 100 days in the top job. The media cycle, mainstream and social, has screamed for sound bites, sanctions, shows of force. At every turn she has denied them, revealing a management style determinedly Kiwi and feminine, neither of which are traditional hallmarks of Australian rugby.
Her predecessor at RA, Bill Pulver, would have slapped a code of conduct charge on Folau within two days of his comment, not waited a week to talk to him, then another week for the clarification. John ONeill, Pulvers predecessor, would have read Folaus column and whacked him hard for the criticism contained within.
Castle has shown she fits neither mould, but is more interested in outcomes than principles (Pulver) or ego (ONeill). What remains to be seen is whether her style will work in the complex political, cultural and financial environment that is Australian rugby. Surely it was lost in translation on this issue.
So here we are. Eyes wide open at least. What happens next will be more revealing than anything else. Not for the first time in his decorated career, Folaus actions will speak louder than his words.
Georgina Robinson is a Sports Reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald
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