The Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA) has launched an investigation into the sacking of Australia winger Lote Tuqiri after his teammates expressed concern about the case.
Leading players, including Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock, wanted the case to be investigated after the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) refused to disclose reasons for sacking Tuqiri, RUPA chief executive Tony Dempsey said.
“I have spoken to the captain of the Wallabies, and many from the Wallaby team, and they have genuine concerns about the matter in which Lote’s sacking has been handled by the ARU and NSWRU [New South Wales Rugby Union],” Dempsey told reporters yesterday. “Players are uncertain where they’re standing and we need to create that certainty. We need to create some clarity around what constitutes a termination of a contract and what doesn’t.”
Tuqiri was one of Australia’s most experienced and highest-paid players until his contract was ended last week for undisclosed reasons. He has instructed his lawyers to begin legal action against the ARU.
RUPA was not informed about the reasons for the sacking and is also contemplating legal action.
Dempsey said the players had lost faith in the ARU and that the association was investigating whether Tuqiri’s sacking was a breach of the collective bargaining agreement between RUPA and the ARU.
“An ‘iron curtain’ has descended on relations between the players and senior management of the ARU,” Dempsey said. “Players feel fearful and intimidated of the ARU. We need to restore trust and credibility with the game’s administrators.”
The ARU later released a statement responding to RUPA’s concerns about the case.
“Let them be assured this matter has been dealt with in a proper manner,” the statement read. “Decisions over employment issues are not taken lightly. ARU has also consistently stated we will not be going into details of the Lote Tuqiri termination due to the threat of legal proceedings.”