Kurtley Beale’s rugby future has been thrown into doubt for the second time in six weeks after the Rebels five-eighth was caught breaching behavioural protocols in Melbourne at the weekend.
Beale has been stood down for the Rebels’ round 13 game against the Blues in Auckland on Saturday after being reported for drinking alcohol while out with friends last week, despite agreeing not to drink following his involvement in a drunken fight after the team’s loss to the Sharks in South Africa in late March.
Beale’s drinking was brought to the attention of Rebels chief executive Rob Clarke, who fronted his marquee player this week before taking the matter to the Rebels board on Wednesday night.
While uncertainty remains around the circumstances of the transgression, Fairfax Media understands he was not drinking when he and teammate James O’Connor went to AAMI Park to watch the Storm play the Raiders on Saturday night. The pair went on to dinner with a group and then to a gathering at which other Rebels players were present.
It is not clear whether any of Beale’s teammates saw him drinking but at some point, it is understood, members of the playing group noticed he was affected by alcohol and organised to remove him from the premises. It is believed the evening was over by 11.30pm.
Beale also missed a compulsory counselling session on Tuesday, Fairfax Media was told – his first transgression since committing to the process in March.
It is a disappointing lapse for the talented Test playmaker after his strong return from a month-long ban in the Rebels’ loss to the Chiefs 24 hours earlier.
While all parties involved, including his club, management, the Rugby Union Players’ Association and the Australian Rugby Union, will take into account the comparative minor nature of the incident, the timing could not be worse for Beale with the Wallabies squad announcement nine days away.
After sitting out this weekend’s match he will have four games up his sleeve to play his way into one of the final spots in the squad leading up to the first Test against the British and Irish Lions.
But if ARU boss Bill Pulver decides on a more severe course of action upon his return from Ireland next week, there will be wider ramifications for his future.
Rebels coach Damien Hill said Beale had been ”genuinely gutted” he had again slipped, but his latest breach in trust to the team would be ”testing the relationship” with his teammates. ”I think everybody who knows Kurtley wants to see the best for him, and he has a lot to offer rugby, but everybody, and Kurtley included, is conscious for that journey to continue his behaviours off field need to improve,” Hill said.
with Stathi Paxinos