The Silver Ferns celebrate their World Cup win over Australia.
The Silver Ferns celebrate their World Cup win over Australia.

Uniting around Folau key to World Cup win

NOELIN Taurua has opened up on how the controversial Israel Folau saga affected the Silver Ferns' camp leading into the Netball World Cup, saying it was a "testing time" for the team.

Israel Folau, former Wallabies star and husband to Silver Ferns shooter Maria, had his $4 million contract torn up after being found guilty of a code of conduct breach when he uploaded a graphic on Instagram claiming "hell awaits" gay people unless they repented for their sins.

Things looked to settle when Israel didn't lodge an appeal against RA within the three-day window, but late in June - less than a week before the Silver Ferns' World Cup warm-up Cadbury Netball Series - things took a shock turn.

Starting up a GoFundMe page asking the public for $3 million to help his legal fight against RA, Israel was back in headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Maria, who publicly endorsed her husband's crowd-funding efforts, was widely criticised online including by the likes of Australian netball legend Liz Ellis.

Israel and his wife Maria.
Israel and his wife Maria.

With the pinnacle event less than two weeks away at the time, the Silver Ferns management downplayed the saga having any negative effects on their World Cup campaign.

But speaking to Martin Devlin on Newstalk ZB and Radio Sport, Taurua revealed that much more went down behind the scenes.

"We had a meeting first-up because it was hot off the press and it needed to be addressed for not only from Maria's perspective but for us as a team," Taurua said.

"Encouraging players to voice their opinions around the topic, Taurua admitted she wasn't sure how the team would respond to the issues surrounding Maria.

"It was a testing time for our team to see whether we were going to galvanise around her and whether we were prepared to support her and express the thoughts of where people were sitting individually," she said.

"It was also a test of how well are we going to work together as a team when somebody is down or there are negative things happening about somebody, are we going to be able to support that person or be straight up as to what our thoughts were."

Much to Taurua's delight, the Silver Ferns were able to put their individual opinions and differences aside, and focus on the job at hand.

"A lot was said but also the support and love for Maria and the understanding that she is a player, she's an athlete but also she's a wife and how difficult of a position that would be where you can't 100 per cent support your husband whether we agree with those issues or not," she said.

"As it came out, it brought us closer together and showed as well that once we're all on the same page, nothing is going to break us in making sure our priority was getting out there and playing on court and doing everything proud for the World Cup."

Noeline Taurua (left) and Maria (middle) celebrate the World Cup victory.
Noeline Taurua (left) and Maria (middle) celebrate the World Cup victory.

Impressing with a run of top performances in the shooting circle during both the Cadbury series and Netball World Cup, Maria looked unfazed by what was happening in the media.

And putting out a stunning campaign which saw New Zealand lift the trophy for the first time in 16 years, doing the World Cup and the black dress proud was exactly what the Silver Ferns delivered.

Meanwhile, Folau has since begun legal action against RA and the NSW Waratahs for unfair dismissal, demanding an apology and return to the Wallabies.

The Australian reports his legal team insists he should still be playing for the Waratahs and the Wallabies, including in the upcoming Rugby World Cup because legislation protects his right to express religious views.

RA's position relies heavily on a provision banning anything which "condemns, vilifies or discriminates against people on the basis of their sexuality".

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

News Corp Australia

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