Wallaby Lote Tuqiri says he is devastated after being dumped by the Australian Rugby Union (ARU), a decision which effectively ended his chances of winning a World Cup.
The 67-Test winger said he has been in a state of shock since being told by the ARU on Wednesday that they were terminating his lucrative five-year contract, due to expire in 2012 over a “standard employment matter.”
Both the ARU and Tuqiri have refused to fully disclose details, citing legal reasons.
Amid reported outrage among some of his Wallabies’ teammates over his sacking, Tuqiri, 29, yesterday revealed his feelings about the dramatic events which abruptly ended his high-profile six-year career in rugby union.
“I’m still in a state of shock,” Tuqiri told the Sunday Telegraph. “I didn’t see it coming. I don’t know what my future holds. I’ve got the next week or so to work out what I want to do and where I’d like to go with my football career.”
ARU chief executive John O’Neill said Tuqiri had received a letter two years ago warning that further contract breaches would not be tolerated.
Representatives of Tuqiri have said he will fight his axing through the courts.
The two-time World Cup Wallaby said it “hurts” him that he will not be able to fulfil his ambition to win the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.
“My main goal was to get to the 2011 World Cup. It is very sad I won’t get that chance,” he said. “I’ve had a crack at two World Cups and the fact I can’t rectify the way we went out leaves a bitter taste.”
Tuqiri said he had always tried to conduct himself in the best possible way as a professional sportsman despite “disappointing” past indiscretions.
“I’ve tried to move on,” he said. “Wherever I go, I guess I’ll be scrutinized.”
Reports said the ARU’s treatment of Tuqiri has angered several of his Wallaby teammates.
One unnamed source close to the Wallabies told the Sun-Herald.
“Players think he’s [John O’Neill] responsible for Lote being sacked but no one’s game to say anything. They’re shocked at it. I don’t know how they think they can sack him,” he said.
O’Neill has described suggestions that he had a personal agenda against Tuqiri as “ridiculous” and said the winger’s massive salary was not a consideration in his contract termination.
Reports said that Tuqiri may be forced to play overseas with his prohibitive price tag potentially blocking a return to Australia’s National Rugby League.
Although some clubs initially sounded out an NRL return for Tuqiri, who played 99 NRL games for the Brisbane Broncos and five rugby league Tests for Australia before he switched codes in 2003, they now say they cannot afford him.