Silver Ferns back Folau

Maria Folau is set to move to Australia but remain eligible for the Silver Ferns. Photo: Getty...
Maria Folau. Photo: Getty Images
The Silver Ferns are backing their star shooter Maria Folau as she weathers the storm created by her husband Israel.

Ahead of the Silver Ferns' three-game netball series in Auckland this week, Folau has been criticised for her decision to endorse her husband's crowd funding efforts in his legal fight against Rugby Australia.

Despite the backlash, Silver Ferns assistant coach Debbie Fuller says the most important thing for the team is to fully support Folau during her "tough time".

"It's a really complex issue for a start. It is something that we've been very well aware of. Our first port of call of course is to care for Maria," Fuller told Radio Sport's D'Arcy Waldegrave.

"She's been a wonderful servant for netball for many years and she's held the shooting end of the Silver Ferns for many years and performed under massive pressure and won Commonwealth Games gold medals and things like that. So she's been a very highly valued member.

"Our first thought is to care for her over and above anything else because that's the most useful thing we can do at the moment. She's here to do a job, we're here to do a job and we've got to get on with it."

Australian netball legend Liz Ellis was among the most vocal critics of Folau, who is contracted to the Adelaide Thunderbirds, and especially of Netball Australia's response to the issue which she labelled as "not good enough".

"There is no action required by the league," the Netball Australia statement said.

"We will continue to support Maria as a valued member of the Thunderbirds and the Suncorp Super Netball league."

Today, Netball NZ broke their silence on the issue, releasing a similarly diplomatic statement about the veteran shooter.

"Maria Folau has not breached NNZ policy," they said in a statement. "Netball New Zealand values inclusion and diversity across all areas of the community and our sport whether its gender, ethnicity, socio economic status, sexuality, religion, and we take responsibility as role models for young New Zealanders very seriously.

"We acknowledge that people have differing views and beliefs. It is important those opinions and views are expressed in constructive and respectful ways."

The statement came after one of Netball NZ's major sponsors, ANZ, raised concerns about Folau's support of her husband.

A spokesperson for ANZ, the naming rights sponsor of the domestic premiership, told Stuff that it did not support "the views of Silver Fern Maria Folau" and that they made it known to Netball NZ.

Amid the public outcry, Fuller says the team will address the issue instead of hiding from it, but ultimately, will choose to support their player and focus on the job at hand.

"It hasn't yet [been addressed in the team]," Fuller said. "When the girls come back we've got our first training and that's when we'll get together, we'll have a talk.

"It's like any major distraction in a team, you've got to put it in front of the team and say this is how we're going to deal with it, how do people feel, how do you want to work this this week, and then put it to one side and get on with the job.

"The sisterhood in netball is really tight and this is an example of one of our players going through a pretty tough time and there have been many players in the past who have gone through similar times.

"And the great thing about netball is that we're all being around together and support one another and care for them whatever they're going through. I think she's feeling the awhi of the team and when we get together it's about getting the job done this week."

The Cadbury Netball Series begins on Wednesday, with the Silver Ferns taking on a local All Stars team, a New Zealand men's team, and the Fiji Pearls across four days.

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