Maria Folau: Netball star will not be punished for social media support of husband

Maria Folau playing netball for New Zealand
Maria Folau has 138 caps for New Zealand

Netball star Maria Folau will not be punished for supporting sacked rugby player husband Israel Folau.

Australian rugby union authorities terminated the devout Christian's contract over a social media post in which he said "hell awaits" gay people.

New Zealand international Folau, 32, shared a post from her husband on social media asking people to support his legal action against his sacking.

Australia's netball authorities - where Folau plays - have backed her.

In a statement, the sport's national governing body Netball Australia said it is "committed to providing welcoming, inclusive and supportive places for all people to play and watch our great game".

"We are aware that Adelaide Thunderbirds' athlete Maria Folau re-posted her husband's GoFundMe page details via social media. There is no action required by the league," the statement said.

"We will continue to support Maria as a valued member of the Thunderbirds and the Suncorp Super Netball league."

A statement by the chief executive of regional body Netball South Australia, Bronwyn Klei, said Folau has not broken the rules of her contract.

Klei added: "First and foremost, I want to be very clear that Netball South Australia is fiercely determined to provide an inclusive environment that allows anyone to participate in the great game of netball regardless of gender, belief, age race or sexual orientation.

"We also believe in fairness and perspective. Like millions of other people across Australia, Maria Folau uses her personal social media platform to share her life and beliefs with her family, friends and fans.

"While Netball SA is no way endorses the reposting, we do not believe Maria has contravened our social media policy."

Folau was in action on Sunday, missing two shots on the buzzer as her Thunderbirds side drew 51-51 with New South Wales Swifts in the Australian Super Netball Premiership.

Folau - the background

Capped 73 times by Australia, Israel Folau has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise AU $3m (£1.6m) for his legal case against his sacking.

By Sunday morning, more than 8,500 people had contributed AU $662,000 (£360,000) to the appeal.

Rugby Australia says Folau - who has also represented his country in rugby league and Australian rules football - was sacked "because of a serious breach of the Professional Players' Code of Conduct".

He has taken the matter to the Fair Work Commission, Australia's workplace relations tribunal, claiming his contract was unlawfully terminated.

Last weekend, Folau was recorded delivering a sermon at his church in Sydney. He said "the devil" is trying to influence the debate over transgender rights.

His wife has been questioned about his comments since his original social media post in April, but refused to comment.

Australia netball international Ashleigh Brazill recently said she received the New Zealander's support when she married her female partner.

Folau has 138 Test caps for the Silver Ferns and is expected to feature for her country at this summer's Netball World Cup in Liverpool, which starts on 12 July.

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