Mystery remains over Tuqiri sacking - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Mystery remains over Tuqiri sacking

02/07/2009 06:51:52 PM Comments (0)

Lote Tuqiri and his representatives have declined to take up an invitation from Australian rugby boss John O'Neill to make public details of the incident which resulted in the Wallaby winger's contract being torn up.

O'Neill again refused to disclose the reason for Tuqiri's sacking at a tense media conference on Thursday, at which he said it was up to Tuqiri or his management to reveal what had happened.

Bailed up by reporters at the front of his Sydney home, Tuqiri refused to shed any light on what had led to his sacking.

"It's a legal matter. It's with the lawyers," he said.

"It's a contract dispute and we're going from there."

"I have a really supportive family which is really good and a wife and kids who love me and I love them.

"Thanks for your support and hopefully you'll see me playing somewhere soon.

Earlier O'Neill had said: "Lote Tuqiri and his management are aware of the reasons for the termination.

"If they want to discuss the situation with you (the media) we have no problem with that."

O'Neill stone-walled the majority of questions at the media conference, continually answering questions with the mantra: "Lote's contract has been terminated, we have no further comment."

But he did confirm Tuqiri's behaviour was not a police matter, other players were not involved, the winger had received a warning in writing in 2007 and that Super 14 franchise NSW had been consulted and agreed with the decision.

The ARU chief executive and managing director also denied the sacking was part of a personal agenda or an attempt to rein in costs.

Asked if he had a personal agenda against the 67-Test veteran, O'Neill said: "That's ridiculous, completely. That's completely untrue and anyone who suggests that should think again."

Of Tuqiri's massive salary - reportedly $700,000 a year plus third-party deals - he said: "That wasn't part of our consideration."

When it was suggested the termination must have been the result of a significant issue, O'Neill said: "Cleary the decision to terminate a contract is one that requires a lot of consideration.

"We gave that consideration and reached the conclusion with our eyes wide open."

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans denied Tuqiri's non-selection for Australia's first four internationals this year had been designed to phase the 29-year-old out.

"Lote was in the squad previously so ... he would have been considered (for the Tri-Nations series beginning later this month)," he said.

The ongoing mystery resulted in guarded comments from the Waratahs and the Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA), while most former Wallaby greats contacted refused to comment until the reason for the sacking was known.

Waratahs coach Chris Hickey said he was yet to contact Tuqiri.

"Lote's career at the Waratahs and his performance over that period of time speaks for itself," was as far as his praise went.

RUPA boss Tony Dempsey hit out at the ARU for failing to inform him of the decision, which he learned about on Wednesday night through a call from AAP.

"I would have thought the ARU would have extended us the courtesy of advising us of their actions before advising the general public," he said.

"(Tuqiri) has proved to be a strong role model in the community at large, as typified by his ambassador roles in (a number of) charities."

"A lot of the team members of his that I've spoken to are quite bewildered and astonished by it as well.

"They saw him as a good leader within the team, a good role model and a valuable contributor."

Asked if he had concerns the ARU had been looking for a way to cut Tuqiri loose, Dempsey said: "I don't know the answer to it but I've certainly had a lot of people ask me that question."

Tuqiri's options for the future appeared to narrow to French or Japanese rugby, with nearly all NRL clubs saying they would not be able to fit him under the salary cap despite league boss David Gallop flagging the possibility of him playing after the June 30 contracts deadline.

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