Wallaby Fullback Israel Folau Opens Up In Extraordinary Interview
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Australia fullback Israel Folau has opened up on his issues with depression, alcohol and women in an extraordinary interview with New Zealand’s 1News.
The code hopper, who also had a stint in the AFL, is on a tour of New Zealand with Manu Vatuvei as they bid to raise awareness of mental health issues. Folau has revealed in a candid interview of the battles he faced when he first broke into the limelight.
Now 27-years-old, Folau made his NRL debut for the Storm at just 17 years-old and quickly conquered the league world with a grand final victory, State of Origin triumphs and a Kangaroos Test call-up.
Folau reveals how all of the life lessons he learned growing up, quickly went out the window when the fame and fortune hit him.
“I was taught some very good life lessons and morals as a young kid growing up,” Folau said.
“As soon as I achieved all those things, it kind of went out the window.
“I got caught up in all the party things and I guess I’d say my head was above the clouds.
“I just thought that I was untouchable.”
Folau moved to Brisbane for family reasons in 2009 but got caught up in the Broncos’ drinking culture of the time, getting “plastered” with teammates and meeting “random women.”
“It got really bad,” Folau said.
“Most people don’t realise there’s certain things that players go through off the field.
“Most times guys are good at hiding things.
“I just got caught up in the alcohol, women and all that sort of stuff.
“I was almost like a different person.”
Folau then took up a whopping $4 million deal with the AFL’s Greater Western Sydney Giants. But Folau’s depression battles continued as he struggled to meet the enormous public expectations in a completely new code.
“No-one else could help me,” Folau said.
“I can only get so much from my family and my friends and they can only say so much to make me feel good
“But when you go to sleep at night you’re by yourself and your head is racing a thousand miles an hour.”
After hitting rock bottom in 2011, Folau was able to reconnect with his spiritual side and started putting his life back on the right path. The fullback took on young Reds prospect Taniela Tupou, also of Tongan heritage, during the Wallabies’ spring tour of the UK and France.
“Obviously I didn’t know what he was going through beforehand but we started to open up and he felt like he needed to get a few things right in his life,” Folau said.
“It was just the two of us and it was a touching experience for me, sharing and him wanting to give his life to Christ and I prayed for him.”
Folau is now engaged to Auckland-based Kiwi netball star Maria Tutaia. Still considered as one of the world’s very best, he has scored 20 tries in 51 Tests for the Wallabies since making his debut in 2013.