WHAT did Kurtley Beale say in a verbal altercation with a female Wallabies staff member on a flight to South America on Sunday that prompted her to return to Australia of her own accord?
That is what Australian Rugby union integrity officer Phil Thomson will have to determine by the end of next week after Wallabies head coach Ewen McKenzie recommended the incident of verbal abuse be investigated by the national body. What Thomson and the integrity unit uncover could have a strong bearing on whether Beale has any future in Australian rugby.
It is understood McKenzie missed training at San Isidro in Buenos Aires on Wednesday (Australian time) to take the female staff member to the airport to begin the journey home and he admitted on the team’s arrival in Mendoza today he was disappointed the Wallabies had had their build-up to Saturday’s Test against Mendoza affected by the incident.
“The team business will keep moving but you take a hit, you take a hit in rhythm and routine and whatever,” McKenzie said. “But that doesn’t give you an excuse to leave things unattended to or not deal with it. So we’ll deal with it.”
McKenzie revealed “a number of people were involved” in the incident but it has become apparent that Beale and the female staffer were the main protagonists, although the fact that the troubled but talented backline utility was not sent home but missed selection in the squad in the Sunday’s (AEDT) Test against Argentina.
Beale is already on thin ice with the ARU after a string of incidents last year that almost led to his expulsion from the game.
He first attracted unwanted attention when he punched Melbourne teammates Gareth Delve and Cooper Vuna in a drunken incident while on tour in South Africa with the Rebels. After being sent home in disgrace, he gave a commitment to steer away from alcohol but when he breached that agreement he was suspended from all football and voluntarily checked himself into an alcohol rehabilitation clinic in Sydney.
He returned in time to play in the historic series against the British and Irish Lions where he again was in the limelight. In the First Test, he missed a last-second shot at penalty goal that would have won the match for Australia when he slipped over as he went to kick the ball. Then, on the Wednesday before the second Test in Melbourne, he and James O’Connor were photographed at a burger joint at 3am. Then, the following week, they missed the bus to the Wallabies final training session before the deciding third Test in Sydney.
Again this year, he has generated adverse headlines when he strongly hinted in the media he might have to consider his options after McKenzie relegated him to the Wallabies bench. Ironically, he was named at five-eighth in the starting XV for the two Tests against the All Blacks, the first ending in a draw in Sydney, the second in a 51-20 massacre in Auckland, with most critics agreeing McKenzie had made a huge mistake in entrusting him with the playmaker duties.
He is off contract at the end of this year and it may well be the ARU decides enough is enough and cuts him loose, at least temporarily, as it did last year with O’Connor.