Wallabies winger Lote Tuqiri’s contract with the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) was terminated yesterday.
The ARU issued a brief statement saying that the 67-Test veteran’s employment had “been terminated effective today.” The ARU said it was treating the issue as a standard employment matter and would not make any further comment because the contract termination could become the subject of legal proceedings.
Tuqiri immediately hired a lawyer to contest the termination.
“All I can tell you is that Lote disputes that the ARU are entitled to terminate his contract and he has retained solicitor Mr Mark O’Brien and Mr Tony Marr, senior counsel, to immediately commence proceedings against the ARU,” Tuqiri’s agent Les Ross said.
The 29-year-old Tuqiri, one of Australia’s highest paid rugby players, had a contract through to 2012. Circumstances of his dismissal were not released.
Tuqiri has been the incumbent winger for Australia since switching from rugby league in 2003 and has been part of two World Cup campaigns. He played rugby league for Australia and Fiji.
Despite his reputation and salary, he slipped down the pecking order to No. 4 among the wingers in Australia after failing to win selection for any of Australia’s first four international matches of the season, including Test wins over Italy and France.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said Tuqiri didn’t get enough opportunities during the Super 14 season because of the gameplan of the New South Wales Waratahs, but had indicated until last week that the dual international was training well and was still part of the selection equation.
Local media reported that Tuqiri’s non selection in the first four matches of the year was not related to his contract termination.
The Waratahs declined comment, saying it was an issue for the ARU to deal with.
Tuqiri has previously been sanctioned for off-field matters, including a two-match ban and a A$20,000 (US$16,000) fine for failing to attend a team medical and registering an alcohol reading at a training session in July 2007.