'Israel is the reason': Anger over Maria Folau retirement 'shame'

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor

New Zealand media personality Martin Devlin has bemoaned the role that Israel Folau’s scandal played in his wife’s low-key retirement.

Silver Ferns shooting great Maria Folau retired from all netball on Tuesday, ending her 150-cap career with a low-key farewell.

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A Netball New Zealand press release confirmed the 32-year-old had hung up her bib, having played her final Tests in the recent Constellation Cup series loss to Australia.

As New Zealand coach Noeline Taurua later revealed, Maria didn’t even want the news to be announced - preferring to sail off into the sunset without another word.

“I think over the last couple of years she has gone quiet in regards to the whole social media thing and what’s been happening privately,” Taurua told Radio Sport.

Maria Folau was presented with flowers during the 2019 Constellation Cup against Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)

“She has really shied away in media not only when she’s been away from the Silver Ferns but also within the mix as well.

“We’ve respected her for that, I’m really glad that she’s actually done a media release, it’s actually a positive because if she had her own way, she’ll just go off into the sunset.

“That’s a start and hopefully, we can get her back in and pay tribute to her in the near future.”

The low-key announcement robs Folau of the send-off she richly deserves.

Known for deadly shooting radar, particularly from distance, Folau became a regular fixture for the Silver Ferns and was a key figure when they pipped the Diamonds in the final of this year's World Cup in Liverpool.

That gold medal added to three world championship silvers and two Commonwealth Games golds.

Maria and Israel Folau leave Federal Court after meeting with Rugby Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

‘Israel is the reason she’s staying silent’

A hugely popular figure throughout her Test career, which began as an 18-year-old, Folau chose to withdraw from the limelight over the past two years because of the public furore surrounding her husband, former Wallabies rugby star Israel Folau.

According to Devlin, Israel is to blame for Maria’s “awkward” farewell that simply “doesn’t feel right.”

“What a shame it's all ended so quietly and uneventfully for Maria Folau. One of New Zealand netball's true greats bows out without a by your leave,” Devlin wrote for the New Zealand Herald on Thursday.

“The truth is she isn't talking because of the position her husband has put himself in with his hellfire-damnation-and-gays-burn-forever rhetoric.

“Israel Folau's outbursts are the reason Maria is staying silent. And why? Because at some stage the question will be asked ‘Do you also believe in what he says he does?’ And the answer to that question could and probably would determine her image, standing and reputation from that point on until eventually when we all meet our maker.”

Supportive of her husband's ardent religious beliefs and by his side throughout a legal battle with his former employers Rugby Australia, Maria became a source of some antagonism.

She has given one interview to media this year - a brief television chat after the World Cup final.

Even the press release on Tuesday didn't feature any comment from the player.

“It got a wee bit dicey especially as we headed into the Netball World Cup and there’s been a lot going on,” Taurua said.

“I think the professionalism from not only of her but also the Silver Ferns squad to be able to back her.

“She’s heading into new realms in her own life and we’re really happy for her. She’s in love and everything is so positive for her at the moment.”

with AAP