Locked out of the club: come clean on why you sacked Lote
News that the Australian Rugby Union has torn up the contract of Lote Tuqiri is bad news for the Wallabies players and their fans.
Tuqiri has been one of the best and most consistent performers for the Wallabies in what have been pretty lean times in recent years. It was only the year before last that the ARU saw fit to re-sign him on a $700,000 a year contract until 2012.
Yet we can’t really evaluate whether it was justified or not because the ARU isn’t saying why they sacked him.
With a series of recent crises enveloping the NRL and following John Elliot’s revelations about the AFL, the ARU will be super-sensitive to any bad publicity for its code. But the secrecy surrounding Tuqiri’s sacking only begs the question, what are they hiding?
Put simply, this stinks of the ARU wanting to protect its image as the gentleman’s code and not wanting to soil its reputation with details of why one its most highly paid players had been dumped mid-season.
Here’s a statement that ARU John O’Neil issued this morning:
“The employment contract of Lote Tuqiri has been terminated effective today.
“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.”
It’s obviously not a “standard employment matter” - the guy has just been sacked prior to the Wallabies’ biggest matches of the year, and with several years to run on his contract.
Yes he hasn’t been selected this year for the Wallabies, but this announcement has us viewing that decision in an entirely new light as well.
Furthermore, what legal proceedings is O’Neil talking about?
If Tuqiri is set to pursue the ARU in court it doesn’t really make sense as this possibility has never stopped them commenting on sacking other players in the past – Matt Henjak’s sacking being one example.
Further a basic public comment on the reasons for him being sacked would not affect a contract dispute in court that Tuqiri could pursue and the ARU defend.
Or are we talking criminal legal proceedings?
The Australian today reported this statement from NSW Police on a possible investigation into Tuqiri:
“I have absolutely no idea about any ongoing police investigation into Mr Tuqiri, but that doesn’t mean to say there isn’t one.”
Who knows what that means and that’s what the ARU will put up with until they give an answer.
It has to be recognised that Tuqiri had a pretty bad Super 14 season and was already on a last warning after a series of incidents. These include getting into a punch-up with team mate Matt Henjak in South Africa and failing to turn up for a medical.
But as O’Neil said this morning the decision to cancel a contract mid-season is not taken lightly - so don’t the fans have a right to know why?
Having attended for some years one of Australia’s best rugby schools that produced the likes of George Gregan and Matt Giteau, I can say that there is a culture of discipline in union that doesn’t exist in league (even though it’s my preferred game).
Rugby was linked to our schooling and with that certain expectations of behaviour and I have very fond memories of junior rugby union.
Nor is it just a class thing as we’re often told. As a pretty basic Christian Brothers school its makeup was more working class than the public school I later went to in Canberra.
But it was also the same school that produced the aforementioned and troubled Matt Henjak.
A talented player who had serious discipline problems throughout school but as long as he kept playing well it was, by in large, overlooked.
This was obviously an attitude that management took in senior football until all of the sudden he was on the world stage and continued to behave the same way. All of a sudden the ARU found that unacceptable.
The ARU’s “don’t you people worry about the details” line on the Tuqiri sacking is an extension of this attitude.
As disciplined and superior as rugby union likes to think itself to be, it also has to accept that their players’ behaviour can quite often be as bad as the “leagies”.
Pretending otherwise isn’t going to make this go away.
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