Bittersweet weekend for Folau, wife


There must have been a bittersweet atmosphere in the Folau household on Sunday night.

Israel, who has taken his fight for rugby survival to the courts, watched on as his former Wallabies teammates secured a record-setting 47-26 win over New Zealand to put themselves in the frame for a drought-breaking Bledisloe Cup triumph.

Victory over the All Blacks in Auckland next weekend will see Australia claim trans-Tasman bragging rights for the first time since 2002 and spark jubilation among long-suffering rugby fans Down Under who have been forced to endure regular heartbreak over the past 17 years.

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Folau was devastated when stripped of the right to wear the gold jersey so one can only imagine how it must have felt to see players he used to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with put forward such a memorable performance while he's been banished from the sport after voicing his homophobic beliefs on social media.

Folau's been such an integral part of the Wallabies' on-field success since moving to the 15-a-side game from AFL in 2013 and if captain Michael Hooper can lead his troops to Bledisloe glory you'd have to think it would hurt the rugby outcast to miss out on such a historic feat.

On the other side, his professional netball-playing wife Maria had every reason to smile after she put on a masterclass to power the Adelaide Thunderbirds to a 71-59 win over the Queensland Firebirds on Sunday.

Maria was ruthlessly efficient in the attacking third, putting on a clinic to finish with 35 goals from 38 attempts in front of a packed crowd in the sunshine state.

"I was a fangirl of her when I was growing up and still am," Thunderbirds centre Hannah Petty said of the New Zealand international. "She's full of confidence and helps everyone around her.

"Maria's the calmest customer I've come across. Every time you look at her when you're feeling a bit rattled, she says take a deep breath.

"She makes everyone play better."

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Israel Folau has been banished from the Wallabies.
Israel Folau has been banished from the Wallabies.

After posting on Instagram gays are destined for hell unless they repent - his second such remark in as many years - Rugby Australia (RA) sacked Folau for a code of conduct breach.

He may have been the Wallabies' best player but the message from RA headquarters was clear. Rugby is a game for all with no room for prejudice - no matter how good you are.

And while Folau fights for a $10 million payout, saying he did nothing wrong by posting Bible passages and claiming he should not be punished for his religious beliefs, the national team has moved on without him.

The Wallabies' brilliant performance against the All Blacks without Folau in their ranks wasn't lost on rugby fans. Former Wallaby and outspoken critic of Folau's stance on homosexuality, Peter FitzSimons, couldn't resist taking a cheeky jab at the cross-code star.

"There was a player missing ... I can't remember, what was his name? Is it Israel? What happened to that bloke?" FitzSimons said on Channel 9's Sports Sunday.

How the Wallabies would plug the backline hole left by the 30-year-old's absence was the most pressing on-field question to arise from the ugly scandal but if the Aussies can dish up more performances like the one on Saturday night, then Folau may not be missed as much as everyone thought.

The versatile Kurtley Beale started at fullback while Reece Hodge scored a try on one wing and on the other flank, Marika Koroibete channelled his inner Jonah Lomu by trampling over the top of Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett on his way to setting up halfback Nic White for the Wallabies' third try.

Add to that the return of reformed bad boy James O'Connor in the midfield and Australia is looking like it has the ingredients to scare some teams at the World Cup in Japan later this year.

With AAP


Maria Folau was on fire against the Firebirds.
Maria Folau was on fire against the Firebirds.