Folau denies agreeing to limit comments
Sacked rugby union star Israel Folau says he didn't ever agree to a set of restrictions on his social media use proposed by Rugby Australia.Lawyers for the 30-year-old on Thursday lodged further documents with the Federal Circuit Court as he sues Rugby Australia and the NSW Waratahs for unlawful dismissal.
© Janie Barrett Israel Folau is suing Rugby Australia for unlawfully terminating his contract because of his Christian beliefs.
Israel Folau said he knew before his social media post warning that homosexuals and other sinners would go to hell would be "offensive" and he would "absolutely" do it again.
The cross-code football star also told an audience of about 1000 people at the Australian Christian Lobby national conference in Sydney on Saturday his termination by Rugby Australia was a "huge surprise".
"As soon as I had a real conversion and was born again, my social media use changed completely," he said. "It wasn’t new, I’d been doing it for a while, so I was caught off guard."
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Pictures: Highs and lows of Israel Folau
From holding the record for the most tries scored in Super Rugby history to facing flak on the social media for his homophobic comments, Israel Folau’s career so far has been peppered with incredible highs and shocking lows.
First, a look at some of his major accomplishments and milestones in the sport.
2007: NRL debut
Folau made his foray into professional rugby with his National Rugby League (NRL) debut with the Melbourne Storm. He became the youngest player in the club’s history, at 17 years and 347 days.
2007: Most tries for Melbourne Storm
The season saw Folau play in every single match, the only player to do so in his club. He went on to amass 21 tries, setting a record for the most tries scored in a season in the club’s history.
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2008: On starting squad for Queensland State of Origin team
In May 2008, Folau (#5, in maroon) made his State of Origin debut, playing for Queensland. He was awarded Man of the Match in the final game of the series for his two leaping tries.
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2008: Plays for the Kangaroos at the World Cup
In October 2008, Folau got a place on the Kangaroos roster as the team headed into the Rugby League World Cup. Apart from two tries in the first match, he didn’t perform spectacularly in the rest of the games. Australia would eventually lose the final to New Zealand. For his efforts, he was awarded the Rookie of the Year award by the Rugby League International Federation.
2009: Signed by Brisbane Broncos
After making his Broncos debut, Folau went on to score four tries against the Gold Coast Titans in May that year, equaling Broncos star Steve Renouf’s record of the most tries scored in a single game for the club.
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2010: Switch to AFL
Signing a four-year contract worth $6 million, Folau switched to Australian Football League (AFL) to join the Greater Western Sydney Giants. His time in the league lasted just two years and his performance didn’t match his previous achievements. However, his stardom helped bring the Giants into the spotlight.
2013: Joins rugby union
Changing sports yet again, Folau joined the New South Wales Waratahs for the 2013 Super Rugby season. Regaining his rhythm, he went on to deliver stellar performances year after year, winning the prestigious John Eales Medal for the best player for a record three times in 2014, 2015 and 2017.
2013: Debuts for Wallabies
Folau made his debut for the Wallabies, or the Australian national rugby union team, against the British & Irish Lions in 2013, scoring the first try of the series. In international games, he is the third highest try scorer among Australians with 37, along with Adam Ashley-Cooper.
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2019: Becomes highest try-scorer in Super Rugby
Scoring his 60th try in a game against the Auckland Blues, Folau became the highest try-scorer in Super Rugby history, surpassing Kiwi legend Doug Howlett.
Now, a look at a brief timeline of the controversies he courted due to his opinions on same-sex marriage and homosexuality.
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2017: Tweets against same-sex marriage
Under the leadership of Malcolm Turnbull, the government ran a country-wide survey on legal recognition of gay marriage. While Rugby Australia announced that the national team supported the move, Folau tweeted in September, “I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions. but personally, I will not support gay marriage.”
2018: 'God’s plan' remark
In April 2018, Folau posted a meme on social media about “God’s Plan,” which showed how the true path to success, or your goal, is always marked by hurdles. A user commented what Folau thought God’s plan was for gay people. He replied, “HELL… Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.” His post sparked wide outrage, and a Rugby Australia spokesman said that Folau’s views “did not reflect the views” of the organization.
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2019: Sacked by Rugby Australia
In April 2019, Folau took to Instagram to post a meme carrying the text, “WARNING. Drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolaters. HELL AWAITS YOU. Repent! ONLY JESUS SAVES.” After attempts to contact and question him failed, Rugby Australia announced the termination of Folau’s contract. Rugby Australia chief Raelene Castle and New South Wales Rugby Union chief Andrew Hore said in a joint statement, “In the absence of compelling mitigating factors, it is our intention to terminate his contract.” He was officially sacked in May 2019.
(Pictured) Leaves after a code of conduct hearing in Sydney on May 7.
2019: Failed crowdfunding campaign against Rugby Australia
In June 2019, Folau launched a GoFundMe campaign, wishing to raise $3 million to cover his legal costs in proceedings against Rugby Australia. It was eventually shut down by the crowdfunding site, saying that it “violated” their terms of service and that all the donations would be refunded.
Folau is suing Rugby Australia for unlawfully terminating his contract because of his Christian beliefs. Australian rugby officials maintain that Folau breached a players' code of conduct.
"Obviously the gospel was offensive to a lot of people and it was offensive to me at one point but that caused me to have a change of heart, to come to repentence and realise I was a sinner and needed a saviour," Folau said. "So I knew it was going to be offensive to a lot of people ... but ultimately it’s a message of love."
Folau denied media reports that he had a special clause in his contract forbidding him from doing what he did. "I never had a special social media clause, I had a standard contract, the same as every other player," he said.
Folau, who was interviewed on stage by ACL managing director Martyn Iles, was given a standing ovation at the beginning and end of his appearance. The ACL raised $2.2 million from crowdfunding for his legal case.
He said it had been "extremely hard" to deal with the fallout but he would "absolutely" do it again.
"I had purpose in my heart that I would stand up for the truth regardless of what I might lose in life," he said.
Folau said he could "sleep really well at night" because the only approver he cared about was God.
Folau that he had prayed to God for a "challenge" and "test of faith" before the controversy unfolded.
"Be careful what you pray for, God may grant it," he said.
Intense scrutiny off-court shouldn't diminish Folau's legacy on it .
Overshadowed by her controversial husband, Maria Folau is likely about to play her 150th and final netball Test, ending a career built on a combination of natural gifts and extreme work ethic.When her trademark long bombs are on target, you hear a low clunk as the velocity of the ball rattles the goal, followed by the swish of the net. Those two sounds in harmony - an onomatopoeic representation of the power and gracefulness of Folau's shooting action - are among the most magical in international netball.