Maria and Israel Folau. Picture: David Crosling/AAP
Maria and Israel Folau. Picture: David Crosling/AAP

Maria Folau’s sad and awkward end to her netball career

WHAT a shame it's all ended so quietly and uneventfully for One of New Zealand netball's true greats, Maria Folau, who has bowed out with little fanfare.

Stats and numbers are only part of the equation when assessing someone's career or legacy, but Folau's speak for themselves - 150 Tests over 15 years means she very rarely missed a match for the national side following her initial selection in 2005 as an 18-year-old.

How appropriate then that after three miserable failed attempts to become a world champ, Folau was part of the now legendary geriatrics (with Casey Kopua and Laura Langman), who achieved greatness in Liverpool this year.

In pure netball terms, Folau is a modern-day icon of the sport.

So why the disappearing act then? Why retire without even a cheesy PR-written statement? Why just vanish into the never-never never to be lauded, thanked and honoured for her outstanding contribution to the sport?

Well, we all know the answer to that. And we are also (seemingly) very aware of the awkwardness of it and why, as a subject, so many continue to dance around it rather than confront the obvious.

Write it anyway New Zealand Netball wish, and to their credit they've done an OK job rolling out as many of her ex-teammates/coaches/mentors as will speak, but 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.

Maria Folau lines up a shot. Picture: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images
Maria Folau lines up a shot. Picture: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

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 we all meet our maker.

Maria has never publicly commented on any of Israel's ravings. All that has been attributed to her, via third-party people, is that "she supports her husband" and/or "as any spouse would she stands by hers" etc etc - in other words totally noncommittal. Of course she's supportive of her husband when he's battling to save his career, their livelihood.

But does she also believe? Does she also condemn adulterers, fornicators and homosexuals to Lucifer's eternal fire? Does she also believe that the recent catastrophic bushfires were God punishing Australia for legalising same-sex marriage? Because if she does, most opinions of her change overnight.

Maybe there is no easy answer. Maybe it's not our right to even know. Maybe the only way she knows best to preserve her Maria-ness, her legacy, is to permanently stay shtum? Whatever the real reason, we're as likely to find out as Israel is to repent his own repentance. Which, as I said, is a real shame.

Because retiring without a word doesn't feel right, nor does it duly respect her hard-earned status in the game.

This article was originally published by the New Zealand Herald and reproduced with permission