UPDATED UPDATE – Friday 3 July: Lote Tuqiri has so far refused to comment on the reasons for his sacking, only prepared to say that the matter will now be in the hands of his solicitors and is sub judice (or words to that effect). The mail is that the previously surmised Crown Casino late night episode may have facilitated a code of conduct breach, which has contributed to his demise. Channel Nine is reporting that Lote was offered 6 months dosh to end his contract but that he declined.
UPDATE – Thursday 2 July: At a press conference this morning, where the Wallaby Tri-Nations squad was announced, ARU chief John O’Neill refused to discuss or expand on the Tuqiri dismissal. He sited the pending legal action as the reason for not being able to comment.
O’Neill confirmed the police were not involved and said he had consulted with Tuqiri’s Super 14 club the NSW Waratahs and they had agreed with the decision. He indicated that Tuqiri was aware of the reasons for the contract termination and he was free to discuss that in the media if he so wished.
Lote Tuqiri has been sacked by the ARU. His contract with the Australian Rugby Union has been terminated, the ARU announced yesterday.
The statement said: “The employment contract of Lote Tuqiri has been terminated effective today. The ARU has treated this issue as a standard employment matter. The ARU will not make any further comment on the matter as it may be the subject of legal proceedings.”
Tuqiri was contracted to the ARU until after the next World Cup. It was rumoured that his contract was worth in excess of $700,000 + third party sponsorship. The circumstances of the transgression is not yet known although an investigation into breaches of the players’ code of conduct had been admitted last week .
It has been reported that Tuqiri will fight his sacking and has retained solicitor Mr Mark O’Brien and Mr Tony Marr, SC, to commence proceedings against the ARU.
An internet report has suggested that four high-profile rugby players were involved in an off-field incident that may be related to a late night drinking session at Crown Casino in Melbourne just prior to the Italian test.
In August 2007 Tuqiri was issued with a final warning letter after being involved in a late-night drinking session at the Wallabies’ hotel in Brisbane after which one of his drinking companions (a Broncos lower grade player) allegedly assaulted a taxi driver. Lote was on the sauce with Tuckey and Special K.
He was confined to barracks during the World Cup campaign. There have been a series of incidents involving Tuqiri that have had an obvious influence in the ARU’s actions taken today.
In 2005, he was involved in a nightclub blue in Cape Town which resulted in Matt Henjak being ejected from the Wallaby tour. Tuqiri was given a suspended two-match sentence and fined.
He failed a fitness test at a Wallabies training camp in early 2007 and sent home for remedial work.
Later in 2007 he was banned for two matches for failing to attend a team medical, and failed a team breath test. He was also fined $20,000.
He’s played 67-Tests for the Wallabies.
He was another of those high profile league converts that have met a sticky end. Is this an indicator that rugby league players really don’t fit the union culture?
Lote Tuqiri - Test Career
DOB: 23.9.79 Height: 191cms Weight: 103kgs
Super 14: Waratahs 2003 – 2009, 84 caps
Wallaby Tests: 2003 – 2008, 67 caps
2003 – Made his Test debut against Ireland in Perth as a replacement. Played in all 14 Tests for the Wallabies that year, scoring five tries.
2004 – Played in all 12 Tests and scored 10 tries (the Wallabies leading try scorer).
2005 – 12 Test appearances totalling 10 tries including a terrific four-try haul against Italy in Melbourne. Selected as an outside centre on the end of season European tour.
2006 – Another 12 Test appearances for the Wallabies. He missed one game in South Africa due to suspension. He played both wing and centre in the end of year tour to Italy, Wales, Ireland and Scotland.
2007 - Played in tests against Wales, Fiji and in the Tri-Nations tournament. Attended his second Rugby World Cup, posting the 50th try of his union test career during the quarter-final loss to England.
2008 – Selected in 8 of Australia’s 9 domestic Tests. Only knee surgery prevented him from playing in all the spring tour matches, appearing in the final 2 including scoring Australia’s opening try during the win over the Barbarians at Wembley.