Maria Folau’s sporting career may be ending at the same time as her husband’s.
Maria Folau’s sporting career may be ending at the same time as her husband’s.

Maria Folau set to walk away for good

THE Silver Ferns could be without the services of veteran shooter Maria Folau in the upcoming Nations Cup.

The NZ Herald understands Folau is in doubt to be named on Wednesday for the side to face England, Jamaica and South Africa in January.

With Folau not having re-signed with a club in New Zealand or Australia for the 2020 domestic season, the Nations Cup was expected to be her final outing in the black dress.

It would now seem increasingly likely the Silver Ferns' final Constellation Cup game in Perth in October - Folau's 150th Test - was her last.

Silver Ferns captain Laura Langman was seen in tears when she talked of Folau's milestone in the wake of the fourth game, speaking as if her teammate had already told the side her time on the court was done.

In an interview, prior to the 2019 Netball World Cup, Folau confirmed her career was "very close to the end".

Folau has been a mainstay of the Silver Ferns since her debut against Jamaica in 2005 and was a member of the 2006 and 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning sides.

She also played a crucial role in leading the Silver Ferns to 2019 World Cup glory in July.

It's been a tough year off the court for Folau with her husband Israel taking Rugby Australia to court after his contract was terminated over his controversial homophobic social media posts.

The former Wallaby recently settled his explosive legal dispute with the national body for a confidential amount.

Maria and Israel Folau have endured a tough ride this year.
Maria and Israel Folau have endured a tough ride this year.

Maria was dragged into her husband's storm, which erupted when he said on Instagram "hell awaits" gay people unless they repent for their sins.

She re-posted Israel's appeal on GoFundMe for millions of dollars worth of public donations to finance his legal battle against Rugby Australia on her own Instagram account, prompting Netball South Australia to respond.

Netball SA said while it did not agree with her stance, Maria - who was playing for the Adelaide Thunderbirds at the time - had not breached the organisation's social media policy by publicly supporting her husband.

Former Australian netball captain Liz Ellis slammed the lack of action on Twitter back in June.

"Yeah nah not good enough," Ellis tweeted.

"How about this: There is no room for homophobia in our game. Anyone who is seen to support or endorse homophobia is not welcome. As much as I love watching @MariaFolau play netball I do not want my sport endorsing the views of her husband."

Ellis later clarified her position, saying she never meant to specifically target Maria, but instead wanted to highlight her belief "the statements from the Thunderbirds and from Super Netball did not go far enough, and were not good enough".

"They could have given Maria her slap on the wrist, but combined it with something so much stronger. To say without equivocation, without weasel words, that homophobia is not welcome in our sport," Ellis wrote in a column for the Sydney Morning Herald.

"To me, it was a lost opportunity to say to LGBTQI players, both in the league and in the suburbs, that they are welcome, they are wanted and they are supported."

Maria became entangled in her husband’s scandal.
Maria became entangled in her husband’s scandal.

In October, Maria rejected offers to return to the Thunderbirds and opted against playing Super Netball altogether, even though Adelaide was keen to re-sign the Kiwi veteran.

Maria's potential on-court absence for the New Zealand national team could open the door sooner for a host of upcoming shooters.

New Zealand's leading netballers had a shot at impressing head coach Noeline Taurua at last week's Super Club tournament in Nelson, with all six ANZ Premiership teams contesting the event.

Shooters Maia Wilson, Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Aliyah Dunn, who have all made appearances for the Ferns but struggled to earn significant court time, could be set to contest Folau's spot.

Meanwhile, young shooter Grace Nweke looks on track to earn her first game in the black dress after another impressive campaign with the Northern Mystics.

This article originally appeared on the NZ Herald and was reproduced with permission

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