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‘She’s always been lovely’: gay netballer on Maria Folau’s support

Brazill made the comments in a discussion about the impact of Israel Folau’s recent social media comments.

The dual international is facing the sack over them, with Rugby Australia holding a code of conduct hearing on Saturday to try to terminate his multi-million dollar four-year contract.

“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,” Brazill said.

“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.”

Maria Folau (nee Tutaia), one of New Zealand’s highest profile netballers, married her rugby playing boyfriend in November 2017 after almost two years of dating.

The pair’s social media postings have grown more and more religious since their marriage. Although Israel has been the more regular and strident poster of religious messages on Instagram and Twitter – conveying his opposition to same sex marriage and proclaiming that gay people will end up in hell – Maria has also grown more vocal about her faith.

She has also frequently liked or posted messages of support in response to her husband’s posts. When Israel first found himself in trouble last year, Maria posted a photo on Instagram saying: “Don’t be afraid to stand up for the truth, even if that means you will be standing alone”.

Cross code star: Ashleigh Brazill also plays with Collingwood in the AFLW.

Cross code star: Ashleigh Brazill also plays with Collingwood in the AFLW.Credit:Wayne Ludbey

The couple have worked hard to maintain their own careers, Maria only relinquishing her New Zealand base for a contract with the Adelaide Thunderbirds this season. Israel, who plays for the Waratahs in Super Rugby, lives in Sydney.

They regularly attend church together when they are in the same city, with the Herald sitting in on a service earlier this month.

After the service, Israel said the reaction to his most recent posts had not caused him to reconsider the comments.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “I’ll stand on what the Bible says. I share it with love. I can see the other side of the coin where people’s reactions are the total opposite to how I’m sharing it.

“But in Ezekiel, chapter 33, verse 11, it says that ‘God has no pleasure in the person that’s living in sin’ … He’s a loving God and he wants people to turn away from what they’re living in and he’ll give them life.

“That’s the message that I’m trying to share, even though it comes across as harsh. I can’t change what the word of God says.”

Georgina Robinson is the chief rugby reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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