Boozy Beale dropped again
Troubled Wallaby star Kurtley Beale was Thursday again facing off-field disciplinary issues, raising doubts about his chances of playing in next month's British and Irish Lions Test series.
In a very brief statement the Rebels and Australian Rugby Union confirmed that Beale would be stood down from their Super Rugby match against the Blues in Auckland on Saturday, after a breach of his "behavioural agreement".
The Australian media reported that Beale – who previously denied that alcohol was a problem – had fallen off the wagon.
He went out drinking alcohol the night after returning for the Rebels and missing a scheduled counselling appointment.
Beale, 24, only resumed playing for the Rebels last weekend after serving a suspension for punching two teammates on his side's tour of South Africa in March.
As a condition of his return Beale agreed to an off-field programme to deal with alcohol-related problems after discussions between the Australian Rugby Union, the Rebels and the Rugby Union Players' Association.
But he now faces likely further sanction amid reports that he went out drinking last weekend and also missed an appointment with a psychologist, which was part of his ongoing treatment programme.
"Kurtley has breached behavioural guidelines that were set by the ARU, Rebels, and RUPA, which were agreed to in full by Kurtley," the Rebels and ARU said in a joint statement.
"The relevant parties will meet to discuss any future course of action in relation to Kurtley."
Rebels coach Damien Hill said it was disappointing for both Beale and the team.
"You can't shy away from the fact that he is one of the best footballers in the country," Hill told Australian Associated Press.
"It's just unfortunate that the behavioural side is interfering with that at the moment. It's really disappointing."
Hill added that it was too early to tell if Beale would play for the Rebels again.
"Everybody wants a fit and healthy Kurtley on and off the field so he can perform," he said.
"It's a work in progress and there's a lot more to be done."
Beale was omitted from last month's preliminary Australian squad, but Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said then he still had time to press his case before the final team was named later this month.
The Wallabies play three Tests against the Lions from June 22 to July 6.
Beale, after being stood down by the Rebels and Australian Rugby Union for his drunken behaviour when the Super Rugby strugglers toured South Africa, returned to the field with aplomb when he came on as a second-half substitute in the 33-39 loss to the Chiefs last Friday – scoring one try and sparking the Rebels comeback that almost snatched an unlikely win.
The performance had him very much again in the sights of the Wallaby selectors for next month's much-anticipated series against the British and Irish Lions.
But Beale has since admitted to drinking on the Saturday night after the game – breaking the conditions of his return to the playing field.
He had served a four-game ban for punching teammates Gareth Delve and Cooper Vuna while the team was returning from a bar after its record 7-64 loss to the Sharks in Durban.
It was just the latest episode of a series of alcohol-fuelled misdemeanours from the supremely talented Beale.
Last month assault charges against him were dropped after he reached an out-of-court settlement with a Brisbane bouncer he allegedly punched during a night out with Quade Cooper last year.
There has been speculation that Beale is keen to return to former franchise, Waratahs, at the end of this season but there must now be questions about whether he will remain in Rugby Union.
Rebels coach Damien Hill said Beale had been "genuinely gutted" that he had again slipped, but his latest breach in trust to the team would be "testing the relationship, definitely" with his teammates.
"I think everybody who knows Kurtley wants to see the best for him and he has a lot of offer rugby but everybody and Kurtley include is conscious for that journey to continue his behaviours off field need to improve," Hill said.
"He knows that."
The coach said it was too early to tell if Beale would play for the Rebels again.
"It's probably too early to comment on that."
Newly appointed Rebels interim Chief Executive Rob Clarke said Beale came clean when fronted by Clarke about the allegations that he had been drinking when he went to the Melbourne Storm's game against Canberra on Saturday night with a "group of non-Rebels players".
"It left us no other option but to take action," Clarke said.
"I was pleased to see Kurtley front up and agree that he had broken those guidelines. He hasn't shirked that in any way but the standards of the franchise has to be upheld at every step and as far as I'm concerned this is the most appropriate action taken."
"… The agreement he had signed up to made it very clear that he had to continue with his program that had been put in place and that there was to be no alcohol consumed during his time at the Rebels."
Clarke would not reveal who had informed him that Beale had been drinking, but he was not concerned that the Wallaby star had not informed the franchise before he was approached by Clarke.
"The main thing is as soon as it was put in front of him, he accepted it and admitted it and faced up to the consequences of it," Clarke said.
Clarke and Hill, who admitted the past few days had taken "a lot of emotional energy" from him, said the franchise would be willing to have Beale, who will return to Sydney to be around family support, back in the team once he had proved he could commit to his rehabilitation program.
"As you saw last weekend, he's a fantastic player and when he's on song he can change a game and that's a fantastic part of why we had him in the franchise and why we want him in the franchise," Clarke said.
"But that doesn't necessary mean that we shouldn't uphold those standards and agreements in place. He's a popular member within the team and with the staff. He's formed very close relationships here and has a good support structure within the team and the staff and I think he's as much disappointed he's let them down as he is for himself.
"I'm not one to write off anyone in life, and I think Kurtley in essence is a fabulous bloke who's trying very hard but he does have some personal challenges."
"He acknowledges those and how he handles that through this process I think will determine what the future might hold and I'm certainly not going to predict that as this point in time."
Clarke said a decision on the length of Beale's suspension would be made next week.
"There's no decision as to any long term action here. The action we've taken is for this weekend … we will be in conversation, as we already have been, with the ARU, RUPA (Rugby Union Players' Association), Kurtley and his management in the coming days and that group will sit down and assess the situation."
Sources: AFP and AAP