25 Jun 2019

Netball NZ backing star shooter

3:11 pm on 25 June 2019

The Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua says wellbeing is their priority in relation to Maria Folau.

Silver Ferns shooter Maria Folau

Silver Ferns shooter Maria Folau Photo: © Patrick Hamilton / Photosport. All Rights Reserved

The veteran shooter has made headlines after it was revealed she re-posted a controversial online fundraising campaign launched by her husband, former Wallabies fullback Israel Folau.

The cross-code star had his contracted terminated by Rugby Australia last month over a social media post which included homophobic content.

Last week he started a campaign with GoFundMe but on Monday the website shut down the fundraiser which was seeking $3 million towards his legal battle with the governing body.

Maria Folau re-posted the fundraiser on her social media.

The Silver Ferns squad arrived back in Auckland on Tuesday from a training camp in Australia and Taurua told RNZ she would be addressing the situation with her players on Tuesday afternoon.

"There is a lot of things that are happening with Maria and her husband.

"Our main priority is the care of Maria and the support of all our players but also not getting distracted by external issues.

"We'll work through things as it comes and we'll be able to start that process this afternoon."

Taurua added she had spoken briefly with Folau about the situation and would discuss it in more depth over "the next couple of days".

Meanwhile Netball New Zealand have broken their silence over the situation.

After the squad arrived back in Auckland on Tuesday, ahead of a series this week with Fiji, the New Zealand Men's team and an All Stars side, Netball New Zealand released a statement.

"Maria Folau has not breached NNZ policy.

"Netball New Zealand values inclusion and diversity across all areas of the community and our sport whether its gender, ethnicity, socio economic status, sexuality, religion, and we take responsibility as role models for young New Zealanders very seriously.

"We acknowledge that people have differing views and beliefs. It is important those opinions and views are expressed in constructive and respectful ways."

Following Folau's re-post, Australian netball great Liz Ellis slammed the sport's governing body in Australia for refusing to sanction Folau.

Netball Australia and the Super Netball league said no action would be taken in a joint statement released on Sunday.

"Yeah nah not good enough," Ellis wrote on social media in response.

"There is no room for homophobia in our game. Anyone who is seen to support or endorse homophobia is not welcome.

The former captain of the national team and the Sydney Swifts said while she loved watching Maria Folau play she did not want her sport endorsing the views of her husband.

Meanwhile, Labour MP Louisa Wall, a former Silver Fern, told Morning Report there was a distinction between Israel Folau's actions and his wife's.

"She hasn't taken to Facebook and used online platforms to propagate homophobia.

"She's his wife... from that perspective you can see her standing in solidarity with her husband... she, in other instances, has liked a lesbian wedding, for example, that happened between netball players that she obviously knows.

"I think we have to differentiate between Maria and her actions given that she is married to Israel Folau."

She said saying Maria was guilty by association was a "good way to characterise it".

"The difference between her situation and his is his was explicitly outlined by his employer... from what I've been able to ascertain, there's been no such meeting with Maria because she hasn't done anything to breach [protocols]."

Ms Wall said it was a situation where Netball NZ needed to be proactive and talk about protocols around liking and sharing homophobic propaganda.

It also needed to be clear with Maria about it's expectation of her involvement in the issue.

"In other instances I think they have to develop protocols for other athletes who may go online and support his comments and like [Israel Folau's] posts...

"I'm hoping that Maria will see herself as having a responsibly and will chose to focus on netball and won't like or share anything related to her husband's court case."

Labour MP Louisa Wall chairing the Health Select Committee

Labour MP Louisa Wall. Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

Meanwhile, Israel Folau says the decision by Gofundme to shut down his fundraising campaign for legal action against Rugby Australia has hardened his resolve.

He has received a $100,000 donation from the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) in response to GoFundMe's decision to cancel his crowdfunding campaign.

The ACL said it hoped to amplify the voice of what they call "quiet Australians" by helping Folau.

"There is an outpouring of support for Israel Folau from the Australian community, who see Israel's case as their case," ACL managing director, Martyn Iles said.

"They feel the pinch of political correctness and the erosion of their basic freedoms."

Mr Iles said Folau's supporters were concerned about their freedom of speech and the reaction of GoFundMe had only confirmed those concerns.

- RNZ with ABC