‘Shocked’ Folau forgives teammates
ISRAEL Folau has given his first interview since being sacked by Rugby Australia - on the same day he launched a public plea for $3 million to fight his upcoming employment termination case in the Supreme Court.
Folau's decision to launch a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for his legal fees on Friday morning coincided with his appearance on Alan Jones' 2GB Morning Show where he made a series of dramatic declarations about his termination.
The former Wallabies star was sacked for a homophobic social media post earlier this year
and had his $5 million contract torn up after being found guilty of a code of conduct breach.
Folau's biggest revelation in his first interview was his decision to forgive his Wallabies and Waratahs teammates for turning their backs on him in his moment of need.
The 30-year-old said he was "shocked" after hearing two particular public comments from star teammates Bernard Foley and Nick Phipps.
Phipps two weeks ago said there were a lot of players in the Waratahs' dressing room "extremely disappointed" with Folau. He claimed Folau's saga "distracted" the team and threw them of the rails this Super Rugby season.
Foley said in April, Folau had "hurt the team" by putting his interests ahead of the entire playing group.
Folau finally got his chance to respond to the backlash on Friday, suggesting his teammates may have simply said what they were told to by rugby officials.
"It's quite a shock, whether or not that was really what they meant, I don't take any of those things personal," Folau told 2GB.
"To me, I have no harsh feelings towards them.
"When I first heard it was a bit of a shock, but I have no harsh words towards them."
He said it's been a "tough few months" for himself and his family - but insists his decision to ask for public donations is not about money.
He said his faith principles are driving him to further contest his termination - not his $5 million contract.
"It's been a tough few months for myself and my wife Maria and my family," he said.
"A lot of this stuff doesn't make any sense, you know. It's been a little bit inconsistent. It's been tough.
"My principal and my faith is what's been driving me from the get go.
"The goal for me is to stand up and to stand up for the word of god. That's what's most important to me."
He maintains that Rugby Australia never excluded him from expressing his faith on social media as long as he did it in a respectful way.
He says quoting the passage of the bible that he did was still respectful to the people targeted, including "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters".
"When I share things from the bible it comes from a place of love and wanting people to understand that I'm not speaking to them personally," Folau said on Friday.
"There's things that the bible might go against, things that people are doing, but from my perspective, I'm all about doing that from a place of love and believing in the bible that if people have an opportunity to hear that so that if they do choose to repent and turn away from that then they have an opportunity to be in heaven one day, which is what I long for people to do."
The former NRL and AFL star said earlier he has already spent more than $100,000 of his own money in fees which are expected to rise to millions of dollars.
"I believe the termination of my contract is unlawful, which is why I have started legal proceedings against Rugby Australia and Rugby NSW," Folau, who also posted a video on his own website, said on the GoFundMe website.
"In response, Rugby Australia have already said that they will 'divert significant resources' to fight me in court.
"Even if I win, Rugby Australia can appeal. There is every chance that a prominent test case like this could take years and eventually end up in the High Court of Australia.
"My wife Maria and I have already spent over $100,000 of our own money and that was just to try and deal with Rugby Australia's internal tribunal processes. The money I am asking for is solely to fund the rest of my action in court.
"I know I am putting myself on the line - this action will be very costly in terms of time, money and reputation - but I do not intend to stop now.
"I would be very grateful for your support."
- with AAP