Wallabies Coach Tells Kids To 'Detach' From Folau
Wallabies Coach Michael Cheika opens up about Israel Folau's controversial Instagram post.
What you need to know
- Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says kids should find a new idol if they don't agree with Folau
- Cheika urges kids to have the self-esteem to "detach" from Folau's anti-gay comments.
- He says he will continue to pick superstar Folau because he's "too invaluable"
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has weighed in on the Israel Folau controversy, saying children should find another idol if they disagree with the rugby superstar's controversial stance on homosexuality.
Cheika broke his silence on Wednesday night after laying low since Folau -- the Wallabies' star fullback -- became embroiled in the social media-driven scandal in April sparked by his post on Instagram that God's plan for gay people was “HELL”.
Folau, a devout Christian, has been heavily criticised for the anti-gay comments, while Rugby Australia has asked him to keep his comments respectful but has not imposed any formal punishment on the league-turned-rugby star.
The 29 year old, who has been in career-high form for NSW in this season's Super Rugby competition, has said he has no problem walking away from the game if, due to his Christian beliefs, his situation becomes untenable.
In the wake of the scandal he has been linked to potential moves to the Gold Coast Titans in the NRL and a $1.4 million deal from England's Sale Sharks.
Cheika, who will be keen to pick Folau for the team's upcoming series against Ireland, said it was important that children had the ability to "detach" from their idols if they didn't agree with them.
“Self-esteem in people, no matter who they are, is extremely important. If that's something you don't agree with, you detach from that,” he told the Kick & Chase panel on Fox Sports.
“The way it will be is 'he's no longer my idol' if that's the case. There's been a lot made of that but self-esteem is so important and, as parents, which I am, and as coaches, it's something I try to do with the [Wallabies] lads. When players are getting the same in return -– nasty messages, social media -– it's about trying to build self belief so you're not affected by those things.”
Cheika told the media it was up to parents to play a role in talking to their children about their sporting heroes, especially when they said or did things they "may not like".
"I'm not saying it's up to the kids, I'm talking about parents, you've got to protect those kids from things, other things out there you might not like.
"I really do believe that whole thinking about believing in yourself, and having self confidence, no matter what situation you're in, is so ultra important," he said.
The Wallabies coach said he would continue to pick Folau despite his hard-line views on homosexuality because of the dual internation's game-breaking on-field ability.
"He's too invaluable around defusing high balls. If you want to get him out on the edge to play kick-ball to him, you can manufacture that, just like the Tahs did in that game when he was on the edge and he was devastating in that space.”