Israel Folau has responded to claims he is 'greedy' for attempting to raise $3 million to assist his legal fight with Rugby Australia, saying it “doesn’t surprise” him.
An Australian Christian Lobby campaign to raise funds to support the sacked Wallabies player was "paused" on Thursday after donations topped $2 million.
That fundraiser was set up after GoFundMe shut down Folau's first effort because it violated their terms of service.
Folau was widely criticised when his GoFundMe page launched earlier this week alongside families seeking funds to help sick children.
"YOU are in a fight that YOU chose to be in after YOU broke the terms of YOUR contract, the kids below are in a fight they NEVER wanted to be in & yet YOU think YOU deserve donations more than they do??!!" former Wallabies teammate Drew Mitchell wrote.
"It’s no longer about religion, it’s about YOU and YOUR greed."
YOU are in a fight that YOU chose to be in after YOU broke the terms of YOUR contract, the kids below are in a fight they NEVER wanted to be in & yet YOU think YOU deserve donations more than they do??!!— Drew Mitchell (@drew_mitchell) June 21, 2019
It’s no longer about religion, it’s about YOU and YOUR greed.@IzzyFolau 🤦🏼♂️ pic.twitter.com/mdywzaw1ha
Reports of Folau's considerable property portfolio later emerged to add weight to Mitchell's claims.
Folau wanted to raise $3m for his unfair dismissal case, which he believes amounts to discrimination on religious grounds.
He is seeking $10 million in damages from RA and wants his multimillion-dollar contract reinstated after it was pulled by the association.
Appearing on Sky News on Thursday night, Folau said he had not personally spoken to his former teammate Mitchell this week.
The 30-year-old declared he had never said he deserved the public's money more than sick kids.
Asked by Alan Jones if he believed the public should not donate to families in need, Folau deflected and took issue with being labelled greedy.
"It's hard to understand. I guess it's something that doesn't surprise me," he said.
"I've got no animosity towards guys like Drew, who's a former teammate."
Folau said he has always anticipated backlash over his religious beliefs because “it states that in the Bible”.
He did not directly answer a question about returning to rugby, saying he is first seeking an apology from Rugby Australia when the parties head to the Fair Work Commission on Friday.
“I'm extremely proud to have represented my country. It's truly an honour,” he said.
“But again, you know, tomorrow's the first step in terms of legal stuff. I'm looking for that apology and if I can get that it'd be awesome.”
Former employers criticise fundraising efforts
An apology is unlikely to arrive, with Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle reiterating Folau had his contract terminated as an 'employment matter'.
Castle said in a statement to rugby fans on Thursday that Folau was not sacked simply because he shared religious messages.
"I want to make clear that Rugby Australia has acted with complete professionalism and integrity at all times through the process by which Israel was found, by an independent three-member tribunal panel, to have made multiple, serious breaches of the Professional Players Code of Conduct," the CEO said.
"The panel found the breaches constituted a high level and directed Rugby Australia to terminate Israel’s contract.
"This is an employment matter and does not concern his religious beliefs or his ability to express them freely.
“If some of you follow Israel’s social accounts, you will have noticed he has posted religious material freely and openly over the last few years.”