Will Genia has criticised Israel’s Folau’s actions as selfish, but He admits feeling sorry for the banished Wallabies superstar and sad he is likely to be lost to rugby forever.
- Will Genia described Israel Folau’s controversial social media post as “completely wrong” in April
- Genia says he is “sad for the game” Folau has been banned
- Genia says he does not believe Polynesian players will boycott the Wallabies in protest
The Wallabies squad have gathered in Brisbane for a pre-World Cup camp, which Genia said was a good chance for the players to regroup following Folau’s contract termination.
Folau has until 3:00pm on Monday to appeal against the loss of his lucrative Rugby Australia (RA) contract after a three-person panel found on Friday that his controversial social media posts warranted his sacking.
It came after Folau last month defied RA warnings following a similar previous incident, posting a biblical quote which said “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters” would go to hell unless they repented.
At the time, Genia spoke out against his long-time Wallabies teammate, describing his actions as “selfish” and his view “completely wrong”.
But that did not stop the news of his termination rocking the Test halfback, who said it was the saddest experience he had had as a rugby player.
He sent Folau a text following the decision to check on his welfare.
“I’m sad for the game and sorry for him, and I just really hope he’s OK,” Genia said.
“At the end of the day, he’s got feelings, he’s got emotions, he’s got a family. And from all the time I’ve spent with him, he loves playing the game, and to have that taken away from him I’m sure he would be really upset.
“With everything that’s happened, he’s lost out on the opportunity to do what he loves. And he’s still young and he’s an unbelievable player, and he’s not going to be able to play the game anymore and that’s really sad.”
‘Hopefully there’s a way we can still see him playing’
Springboks playmaker Handre Pollard spoke after his Bulls’ Super Rugby win over Melbourne and also said he was disappointed such a talent would be lost.
“Israel is probably one of the best players in the world, not just in Australia,” Pollard said.
“I don’t know all the details about it and I only know him from the locker room, but [he’s] not only an unbelievable talent, but he’s a great guy.
“Hopefully there’s a way we can still see him playing rugby because it’s an absolute treat.”
RA boss Raelene Castle said after the announcement she was confident the threat of a Polynesian player boycott would not eventuate, and Genia agreed.
“I can’t really speak on other people’s behalf, but from my perspective there’s nothing you can really do about it,” Genia said.
“The situation has been dealt with and you’ve just got to move forward.
“As sad as it is, at least there’s been some sort of conclusion to what’s happened and guys can learn from it and move on and do their best to understand why.”
A number of Polynesian players sent public messages of support to Folau via Instagram after the decision was handed down on Friday afternoon.
Sekopi Kefu wrote, “Will miss going to battle with you my Toko. ‘Ofa atu #TeamJesus”.
Lukhan Salakaia wrote, “Didn’t think I’d ever get the privilege to share the field with you izzyfolau. It’s been a pleasure uce, things will be a lot different now. God Bless toko … Ofa Atu”.
The phrase “Ofa Atu” translates as “best wishes”.
Folau’s Waratah teammates put the decision behind them to battle to a 40-32 victory over the Queensland Reds at Lang Park on Saturday night, extending the state’s dominance over their historic rival to 11 matches.
The Reds outscored the Tahs six tries to four on the night, but some smart goalkicking from Bernard Foley, who nailed eight of nine shots at goal, proved the difference.
Genia, who has played 100 Tests since 2009 and played in two World Cups, said the focus now needed to turn to the Japan tournament, which would get underway in September.
The Brisbane squad is similar to the one that assembled at the last two camps, based on last year’s Spring Tour squad, but with additions such as Quade Cooper, James Slipper and Luke Jones.
“That’s the whole purpose of the camps — getting guys together who are well and truly in the mix or who are going to be there,” Genia said.
Before the World Cup, Australia must negotiate the Rugby Championship, which kicks off on July 21 against South Africa in Johannesburg.
Israel believes he’s done nothing wrong: Farr-Jones
Former rugby union footballer Nick Farr-Jones says Israel Folau believes he’s done nothing wrong, following a private discussion between the two players. Mr Folau has been found guilty of breaching his code of conduct contract following his controversial comments on social media, condemning gay people and adulterers.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Farr-Jones says Mr Folau believes he’s posted the message ‘in love’ to people, ‘as a warning to the sinner of the consequences of sin’. But obviously not everyone sees it that way
Folau’s social media feeds are full of Bible verses and Christian sayings. A typical post from Twitter reads:
When your truly born again and you turn to Christ, your affections start changing through the Holy Spirit. Your desires and pleasures for this world start fading away and Jesus becomes your everything.
— Israel Folau (@IzzyFolau) December 30, 2017
Michael Jensen an Anglican Minister told EternityNews he thought one of the most fascinating aspects of this story was the role played by corporations.
“We have corporations acting as the moral policemen and threatening to take their money away. That’s an interesting moment. Have we really come to the point where our moral guides are big corporations like Qantas? Is Qantas really an ethical beacon of corporate behaviour? Are they really qualified to act that way?
“When you’re talking about a corporation, in the end it’s about money. So it’s not what’s right but what sells that counts. And that’s very dangerous territory to be in,” he said.
Perth blogger and pastor of Providence Church Stephen McAlpine agrees: “The Ruddock Review on Religious Freedom will be less revealing and have less impact than the cultural putsch by the CEOs of big organisations who have made it their aim to champion social change.”
Jensen warned against seeing criticism or disagreement as silencing. “People can disagree with what [Folau] says. And corporations and sponsors are perfectly right to say it doesn’t accord with their values. But disciplining him may be a little heavy handed.”
“We’ve lost the ability to speak civilly, in thick disagreement, about weighty matters.” – Nathan Campbell
Nathan Campbell, Brisbane blogger and a pastor at Creek Road Presbyterian, said he disagreed with the way Folau responded to the question and that he would have preferred him not to single out gay people. It was better for Christians to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
However, he said, “Folau spoke courageously, from his convictions about the eternal destiny of his neighbours.”
“We’ve lost the ability to speak civilly, in thick disagreement, about weighty matters,” he lamented.
“I’d much rather engage with his ideas, than silence him; which is a barbaric attempt to protect ‘uniformity’ by eradicating ‘difference’ and will end with us locked in ‘bubbles’ — unchallenged by ideas we don’t already agree with,” said Campbell.
“It gets to whether anyone will have freedom to be themselves in the workplace and speak things they believe.” – Michael Kellahan
Freedom For Faith leader Michael Kellahan said the issue went beyond one social media post.
“This is a religious freedom issue,” he told Eternity.
“The simple thing to say is he could have expressed himself better – taken out of context, it sounds like he is singling out gays. But there’s a deeper issue here that is more serious than tone. It gets to whether anyone will have freedom to be themselves in the workplace and speak things they believe. Especially when it comes to talking about sin and judgment – that’s always going to be a hot issue.
“If corporations and employers control speech in this way, then it is a chipping away at freedom. Will diversity in the workplace allow for genuine differences in belief? What happens when there is a clash between corporate values and the beliefs of the individual? And under it all, as the Ruddock Panel writes its recommendations, there are real legal and political questions about freedom that might impact here.
“Rugby has a clear choice – stand for freedom of speech and people of principle like Israel Folau or bow to corporate PC bullies like Qantas”. – Karl Faase
“Should freedom be limited to worship or extend to the lived-out faith of a footballer? Will protection be narrow or broad? A narrow view could start costing people jobs – most of them won’t be as famous as Izzy. A broad view might give protection to speak but also ask what reasonable limits should be for good corporate policy?”
The issue has smoked out many Christian commentators to have their say, including Karl Faase from Olive Tree Media, who said on Facebook this week: “Rugby has a clear choice – stand for freedom of speech and people of principle like Israel Folau or bow to corporate PC bullies like Qantas”.
Lyle Shelton from the Australian Conservatives, and former managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), said, “Of course Israel Folau and all Christians should be free to speak about the biblical view of sin and its remedy through the love of Jesus. All Australians have the right to accept or reject this view. But, sadly, toxic identity politics is being used by some as a weapon to de-authorise a biblical worldview and frighten Christians into silence. Christians should be gracious but firm in resisting this trend.”
“Toxic identity politics is being used by some as a weapon to de-authorise a biblical worldview and frighten Christians into silence.” – Lyle Shelton
Meanwhile, the new ACL Managing Director Martyn Iles said he was pleased Folau was not “overtly disciplined for speaking about his faith” after the Rugby Australia meeting today, but he “should never have been hauled before Rugby bosses to explain his actions.”
“ACL is concerned that the so-called ‘ongoing dialogue’ with Rugby Australia about Folau’s appropriate use of social media could stifle his freedom to speak openly about his faith and marginalise his Christian identity into the future,” Iles said.
“The real test will be whether Folau continues to have the same freedom as other players to speak up for his beliefs, which are shared by millions of Australians.
“Instead of responding decisively to cheating, Qantas chose to persecute a Christian player for his religious identity.” – Martyn Iles
Iles said the handling of this incident has probably set a precedent in Rugby Australia and other sporting codes where a player’s ability to articulate mainstream Christian views is “chilled.”
This is discrimination against people of faith in sport,” he said.
“It is especially disappointing that Qantas hinted it could withdraw its support for the Wallabies, after reassuring Cricket Australia it is “nowhere near” withdrawing support for a team that deliberately cheated. Instead of responding decisively to cheating, Qantas chose to persecute a Christian player for his religious identity.”