MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia fullback Israel Folau has said he had chances to ease tensions amid the furore over his social media post and get back to playing rugby but had resisted them all because it would be doing “Satan’s” work.
Folau, a fundamentalist Christian, is awaiting sanction after being found guilty of a ‘high-level’ breach of Rugby Australia’s code of conduct for posting on social media that hell awaits ‘drunks, homosexuals, adulterers’ and others.
The 73-cap Wallaby told his church congregation in Sydney that he understood he could lose his contract over the post but was not prepared to back-track for “material” comforts.
“There have been many opportunities to potentially make the situation a little bit easier,” he said.
“I could go back and play the game, get everything back to the way it used to be.
“The way Satan works is he offers you stuff that could look good to the eye and makes you feel comfortable, and if you go down that path all the worries and troubles will go away.
“It is always the will of God that comes first.”
Rugby Australia and Folau’s Super Rugby team New South Wales Waratahs announced their intention to terminate his contract for ‘disrespecting’ people on the basis of their sexuality weeks before his code of conduct hearing.
Folau triggered similar controversy a year ago for a post that said gay people would go to hell if they did not ‘repent’, and was warned repeatedly over his use of social media, according to RA CEO Raelene Castle.
Sydney’s Daily Telegraph newspaper reported last week that Folau had turned down a A$1 million (535,931 pounds) settlement offered by RA to walk away from his four-year contract, which is reported to be worth A$4 million.
A three-member panel upheld RA’s judgement that Folau had committed a high-level breach at a hearing last week and said it would issue a sanction after receiving further submissions.
Folau will have the right to appeal.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)