WALLABIES star Israel Folau has opened up about the furore his controversial views on gay marriage caused earlier this year, making the shock admission he “really enjoyed” the debate.
Folau sparked public outrage with his comments on social media in April, claiming, as part of his Christian beliefs, God’s plan for gay people is hell.
Folau had to front Rugby Australia over his comments and CEO Raelene Castle chose not to sanction him saying: “In his own words, Israel said that he did not intend to upset people intentionally or bring hurt to the game. We accept Israel’s position.”
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s third Bledisloe Cup test in Yokohama, Japan, Folau said: “It’s a bit of a rollercoaster year for me, more so off the field with what’s been happening.
“But, to be quite honest, it might sound a bit crazy, but I kind of really enjoyed what was happening off the field, not that it happened on purpose.
“But my identity is based around my faith in God and I truly believe that from deep down inside what was happening off the field, even though it was challenging and it was hard, it was actually moulding me into the person in becoming stronger and it actually taught me a lot of things that I needed to learn, and I’m still learning now.
“Obviously a lot of people will say negative things about what was happening, but it taught me to actually love and forgive them for obviously not agreeing and that’s something that I’ve learnt to take on.”
Folau said the controversy made him a stronger person.Source:News Corp Australia
All Blacks TJ Perenara and Brad Weber spoke out against Folau’s comments at the time, while fans also expressed their disappointment on social media.
Folau’s own teammate David Pocock also openly disagreed with his stance.
“I totally understand everyone else’s view,” Folau said. “They are obviously different to mine and I respect that.
“It doesn’t change how I look at that person.
“What I don’t want to do is compromise what I believe in and being true to my faith in God.
“I’m always going to follow that even though probably a lot of people won’t agree with that.
“That’s fine. I’ll still respect them and love everyone else for who they are.
“In terms of being true to what I believe in that won’t change.”
Yesterday it was revealed the 69-Test veteran had signed a new four-year deal to remain in Australian rugby. Folau’s new deal will take him through until the end of 2022 — when he is 34 — and ensure the sought-after code-hopper spends at least 10 seasons in the 15-man code.
He considered offers to return to the NRL, the Queensland Reds or even head overseas to Japan or Europe, but ultimately his love for the Wallabies and Waratahs won over.
Folau’s new deal is a boost to Australian rugby.Source:AFP
“The journey I’ve been on so far, I wasn’t expecting to go from league to AFL and then AFL to rugby,” Folau said.
“I’m 29 now, I can’t tell the future, but I’m never really feeling comfortable in the position I’m in. Whatever happens to me, it keeps me on my toes, just trying to improve as a footy player but also as a person as well.”
Folau’s retention is not only a huge boost for the Wallabies ahead of Saturday’s Test but for next year’s World Cup and beyond, with or without coach Michael Cheika.
“There are lots of young guys coming through who are talented and we are playing some good footy, bits and pieces in games,” Folau said.
“Being consistent is the great challenge and one to be a part of.
“I believe in the team and what we have here. Cheik is doing a really good job in directing the team.”
— with AAP
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