No, I don't want to fetch (if I did, I would agree my reasoning was flawed). Rather, getting rid of the fetching would - as you also explain - solve the issue. And that's what Gails patch does, isn't it?
However, as we need left outer join, there is AFAIK no way to turn the fetching off, if the change for this issue is reverted. There would be no way to use Criteria and say "I want left join but not fetch". Removing fetch="join" from the mapping makes no difference. Using HQL would be the only solution. (Or am I mistaken?)
If this is considered legacy that should not be supported, we'd have to accept that.
I just thought it would be a shame to remove the fix as it solved an actual problem, and may break systems relying on that.