Ripples from Israel Folau 'gay' comments felt at Netball NZ

Israel and Maria Folau
Israel and Maria Folau. Photo credit: Instagram

Netball New Zealand has joined a growing list of sporting bodies to sidestep the Israel Folau issue, as controversy over the Australian rugby star's 'gay' comments mounts.

Earlier this month, the deeply religious Folau told a poster on Instagram that Gold's plan for homosexuals was "HELL… unless they repent their sins".

Last weekend, wife Maria Folau - star shooter for the Silver Ferns netball side - also took to social media to support his stance, posting: "Don't be afraid to stand up for the truth, even if that means you will be standing alone."

Rugby Australia has withstood calls to punish its player, despite the risk of sponsor backlash, and now Netball New Zealand chief executive Jennie Wyllie has had to field questions over Maria Folau's culpability in the issue.

Wyllie was pressed on the matter at a press conference called to discuss a review into the Silver Ferns' disappointing Commonwealth Games performance.

"We value inclusion and diversity, whether it be gender, ethnicity, social economic status, sexuality or religion," she read from a prepared statement. "We take our responsibility as role models for New Zealanders very seriously.

"Maria chose to demonstrate her support for her husband and his beliefs - this is not a matter for Netball New Zealand.

"We have had a conversation with Maria about our concerns."

The statement came only minutes after former Netball New Zealand boss Raelene Castle, now chief executive of Rugby Australia, confirmed Israel Folau would not be sanctioned.

"In his own words, Israel said that he did not intend to upset people intentionally or bring hurt to the game," she said. "We accept Israel's position."

His stance is interpreted by some as an attempt to gain release from his rugby contract and possibly switch codes, but that isn't likely to see him cross the Tasman. 

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney sharply dismissed that notion and club chief executive Cameron George insisted it had no room for such a big-name signing under the salary cap.    


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