"You'll go to hell, son."

With those words ringing in his ears from his father, Israel Folau quashed his temptation to remove his controversial Instagram post to save his rugby career.

The sacked Wallabies star had been keenly considering pulling down the infamous post, warning that "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolaters" were destined for hell unless they repented.

Had he taken that step, and shown contrition, Folau would have been impossible to sack.


The 30-year-old had been advised by many people to take it down and, during his meeting with Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle on April 12, two days after the post, he was told in the strongest terms that his playing days were about to come to an end.

Israel Folau could have saved his career but the advice from his father, Eni, put a stop to that.

Folau and wife Maria considered their options over the weekend. By late Sunday evening, Folau was almost ready to delete that post.

But he had to make one last phone call.

Folau rang his father Eni, a devout pastor who had played a crucial role in Folau becoming a born-again Christian in late 2017.

Eni told his son that if he pulled down that post, Folau would be disowning the words of the Lord, a sacrilege that would send him to hell.

That was the clincher. Folau's mind was made up and resolute.

He could not defy his deity and hit delete, whatever the cost, because in Folau's mind, the cost in the afterlife would be far greater.


So he gave up his best chance for rugby redemption.

Israel Folau. Photo / Photosport.co.nz
Israel Folau. Photo / Photosport.co.nz


The path to his career downfall began in New Zealand on April 9, when Folau stumbled on news that Tasmania's parliament had passed legislation allowing people aged 16 and over to legally change their gender on their birth certificate.

To Folau, under his extreme Christian beliefs, this represented an affront to God, who created man and woman purposefully. Any change to this design are therefore the work of Satan.

And so, despite not having posted on Twitter since November 25, 2018, Folau was moved to tweet the news with the comment: "The devil has blinded so many people in this world, REPENT and turn away from your evil ways. Turn to Jesus Christ who will set you free".

It lobbed at 11.59pm local time.

RA had been closely monitoring Folau's social media activity since April 2018, when he caused an outcry by replying to an Instagram follower that gays were destined for hell but they were unsure whether this post had breached his contract.

Folau flew back to Sydney the next day, still unsettled by the news from Tasmania and worried so many people were heading to Hell when Jesus could save them.

In the afternoon, Folau performed his daily ritual — reading passages of the Bible.

He felt an overwhelming sense of connection with God at this time.

As he explained to a friend: "If you see a hole in the road, and someone walking towards that hole, wouldn't you warn them?"

Then, on Facebook, Folau found a meme that seemed to sum up his feelings.

It was an abbreviated artwork of Corinthians 6: 9-10, which under the New King James Version of the Bible — the only Twitter account Folau follows other than his wife — reads in part: "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God".

Israel Folau's father has been one of the driving forces behind his conversion.
Folau posted the image on Instagram on April 10 with the caption: "Those that are living in Sin will end up in Hell unless you repent. God loves you and is giving you time turn away from your sin and come to him", followed by a warning verse from Galatians.

RA went into meltdown.

Castle immediately phoned Folau's manager Isaac Moses.

But Folau and Moses had fallen out and the player was not taking his agent's calls.

Moses and his silent business partner Joe Wehbe were entangled in a legal dispute over money allegedly owed to Wehbe by Moses. Folau took Wehbe's side and intended to be handled by him.

Folau, oblivious to the furore because in his mind he had simply quoted Biblical scripture, ignored 17 calls from Moses and went to dinner.

Moses told a ropeable Castle he could not make contact with his client.

Rugby Australia Chief Executive, Raelene Castle announces that Rugby Australia has terminated star fullback Israel Folau's contract in Sydney. Photo / AP
Rugby Australia Chief Executive, Raelene Castle announces that Rugby Australia has terminated star fullback Israel Folau's contract in Sydney. Photo / AP


Folau's version of events is that at 6am on Thursday he and Maria left home to do a three-hour training session at Sydney University, followed by lunch and shopping and that he left his phone at home.

It was during these hours that Folau missed a direct call from Castle and one each from Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson and NSW Rugby boss Andrew Hore.

But RA staff could see that Folau was active on WhatsApp.

RA sent a human resources employee to Folau's house in Little Bay but after the doorbell went unanswered, they left.

Under enormous pressure from media and sponsors to make a public comment on Folau's divisive post, RA had Moses try the player again.

Folau finally returned Moses' call and was told: "You've got to meet Raelene".

But he was not keen.

RA released a statement saying they intended to terminate Folau's contract pending any mitigating circumstances.

Uncertain what to do, Folau phoned a welfare staff member at the Waratahs. He was put in touch with the Rugby Union Players Association.

The next morning, Folau and his wife met RUPA chief executive Prataal Raj and general manager of player services Toby Duncan at a cafe in Little Bay.

Israel Folau's friends were not oblivious to the change in him after he turned to religion.
They drove to RA headquarters at Moore Park, now surrounded by television cameras and reporters, where Folau and Raj sat down with Castle and Hore.

Castle felt betrayed, reminded Folau of the promises he had made last year and pointed out that sponsors were going to leave and members of the rugby and wider public had been deeply offended.

Folau's response was these were words directly from the Bible, so how could he be responsible for any damage. It was tense. Castle made clear RA had no choice but to seek to terminate his contract as this was seen as a high level breach.

However, if he took down the post, it would show recognition of harm and change the breach into low or middle range, which cannot result in termination.

After just eight minutes, the meeting was finished and Folau and his wife went away to consider their options over the weekend.

Folau walked out of the building and into a waiting car.


He and Maria mulled over his potential moves over the weekend. Folau made a phone call to his father on Sunday evening after being strongly advised to take down the post.

Removing the offending words would have reduced the breach from low to middle range and remove the threat of contract termination.

But the phone call changed everything.

In November 2017, Folau became a born-again Christian.

About 18 months before that, Folau had saved his father from a heart attack at home.

That incident brought them closer together and Folau also became a constant support as Eni battled through kidney disease in recent years, forced to use a dialysis machine at home.

It was soon after the heart attack, around November 2017, Folau became a born-again Christian.

He quit alcohol and began carrying a Bible everywhere.

"You could really see the change in him," a friend said. "He was absolutely resolute in his beliefs."

The family had grown up as Mormons, moved to join a Pentecostal church, and then Hillsong, before a dispute with the church's charismatic leader Brian Houston led Eni to start his own church in Kenthurst called Truth Of Jesus Christ Church.

Folau took on a leadership role in that church and began to preach, echoing the strong beliefs of his father.

So when Eni told his son he would be destined for hell if he shunned God's own words that Sunday, it sealed Folau's stance for good.

No backing down.

Folau has also been influenced by controversial American preacher Gino Jennings, who sparked outrage last year when in a sermon he referred to women with fake hair and breast implants as "hoes" and "prostitutes".

Folau, understood to be in the US. has previously spoken to Jennings on the phone, and reposted one of his sermon's on his Instagram page.


Folau weathered a mighty public storm for the rest of the week as a code of conduct panel was assembled.

The weekend after his meeting, on Easter Sunday, Folau gave an emotional sermon.

"In your workforce, if they're telling you something that will compromise your faith, this is a test of faith … and the question is 'What are you going to do'?" Folau asked.

"And it says in the word: 'For what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and lose his own soul'?"

At that point, Folau stopped, and began to wipe tears from his eyes.

"This life that we live in is pretty hard," Folau continued.

Israel Folau vowed to stand by his beliefs.

"The God of this world, Satan, has deceived many. But the one that lives inside us is all powerful. He can deliver us from anything.

"I encourage us all to store our treasures up in heaven, where it all counts."

At another sermon, as his future hung in the balance, Folau told his church that offers to continue playing by taking his post down were the work of the devil.

"There have been many opportunities to potentially make the situation a little bit easier," Folau said.

"I could go back and play the game, get everything back to the way it used to be.

"The way Satan works is he offers you stuff that could look good to the eye and makes you feel comfortable, and if you go down that path all the worries and troubles will go away. It is always the will of God that comes first."

During the weekend of Folau's hearing, Eni told reporters at his church: "Israel does not do any wrong at all.

"All the words he posted up has not come from him, it's come from the Bible.

"I talked to him, and he said whatever God's decision to his life, he will accept."

What Folau will never accept is anybody trying to suppress his religious beliefs.