Gay Australian netballer Ashleigh Brazill has revealed the support she received from Silver Ferns star Maria Folau after her marriage three years ago.
Brazill said Folau had contacted her personally to congratulate her, after the 2016 union with Brooke Grieves, a gesture that seems at odds with the views of her under-fire husband, Australian rugby player Israel Folau.
"I can only talk about the way Maria's been with me and she’s always been lovely," Brazill told the Sydney Morning Herald, when asked about the impact of Israel Folau's controversial comments.
"When Brooke and I got married, I got a message off her saying congratulations and she liked all the [social media] posts."
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A star in both netball and AFL, Brazill was one of Australia's first openly gay elite athletes.
On Saturday, Israel Folau may have his Rugby Australia contract terminated, pending the outcome of a code of conduct, following a social media post that claimed Hell awaited "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolaters".
After two years of dating, Maria Folau (nee Tutaia) married the outspoken and devout Christian in 2017, and her posts have since become increasingly religious.
She's often signalled support of her husband by liking his posts and after he landed in hot water over an anti-gay marriage post last year, she sent a message from her own Instagram account that said "Don't be afraid to stand up for the truth, even if that means you will be standing alone".
Folau has been relatively quiet since she made the decision to leave New Zealand's Northern Mystics and sign on with the Adelaide Thunderbirds, so she could relocate to be with her husband in Australia.
Brazill added her own thoughts on Israel Folau's much-maligned post, and the damage it could do on aspiring and impressionable young gay athletes.
"I think about how I would have felt, as a 17-year-old, if my idol [Australia’s most-capped netballer, Liz Ellis] had written that. It would have broken me.
"I think we are very fortunate to be able to use our public profiles to put out messages and it’s disappointing when people use that in a negative way."
Israel Folau has been unapologetic regarding his comments and has stated he's prepared to accept his fate from rugby authorities.
On Sunday, Maria Folau was instrumental in helping her new club break a near two-year losing streak, nailing 24 of her 31 attempts on goal to power the Thunderbirds to a 61-60 win over West Coast.