Folau broke ranks with the Wallabies during last year’s same-sex marriage debate. (AAP: David Moir)
Wallabies star Israel Folau has said he is prepared to walk away from rugby if his situation becomes untenable due to his Christian beliefs.
Folau was heavily criticised for a post on Instagram two weeks ago in which he said God’s plan for gay people was “HELL”.
The 29-year-old said he was disappointed in the way Monday’s meeting with ARU chief executive Raelene Castle and NSW Rugby chief Andrew Hore to discuss his social media use was portrayed to the media by Castle.
“After the meeting I went home, turned on the TV and was really disappointed with some of the things that were said in the press conference,” Folau wrote in a column on PlayersVoice.
“I felt Raelene misrepresented my position and my comments, and did so to appease other people, which is an issue I need to discuss with her and others at Rugby Australia.”
Folau said he has “no phobia towards anyone” but refused to back down on his beliefs, revealing he told Castle he would quit rugby if those beliefs were harming the game.
“I didn’t agree with Bill Pulver taking a stance on the same-sex marriage vote on behalf of the whole organisation, but I understand the reasons behind why he did,” he wrote.
“After we’d all talked, I told Raelene if she felt the situation had become untenable — that I was hurting Rugby Australia, its sponsors and the Australian rugby community to such a degree that things couldn’t be worked through — I would walk away from my contract, immediately.”
Castle called Folau a “strong role model” after Monday’s meeting.
“We are in a negotiation with Israel to extend [his contract] and we would really like him to stay in rugby, that’s hugely important to us, he is a great player, he has delivered some great outcomes for us and has been a really strong role model in the Pacific Islander community and we would like to see he stays in rugby,” she said.
When asked if Folau understood the pain his comments could cause, Castle replied: “Yes, and I think Israel has acknowledged that maybe he could have put a positive spin on that same message and done it in a more respectful way.”
‘My faith is more important than my career’
Folau said he “could never shy away from who I am or what I believe”, and speculation he was looking for a way out of his ARU contract to take up big offers elsewhere was false.
“There have been things written about me angling to get a release from my Rugby Australia deal to pursue an NRL contract. That simply isn’t true,” he said.
“There have been rugby offers from the UK, Europe and Japan that are way above anything I could earn in Australia.
“This is not about money or bargaining power or contracts. It’s about what I believe in and never compromising that, because my faith is far more important to me than my career and always will be.”
The rugby league and AFL convert said his Instagram comment was to give someone “guidance”, not to cause offence.
“Since my social media posts were publicised, it has been suggested that I am homophobic and bigoted and that I have a problem with gay people,” he wrote.
“This could not be further from the truth.
“I fronted the cover of the Star Observer magazine to show my support for the Bingham Cup, which is an international gay rugby competition for both men and women.
“I believe in inclusion. In my heart, I know I do not have any phobia towards anyone.”
Folau has previously spoken out against same-sex marriage, after the Wallabies expressed support for the Yes campaign last year.
In a tweet posted on September 13 last year, Folau said: “I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions but personally, I will not support gay marriage.”