SYDNEY, July 3 – Dumped Wallabies winger Lote Tuqiri may be forced to play overseas with his prohibitive price tag potentially blocking a return to Australia's National Rugby League, reports said Friday.Two-time World Cup player Tuqiri, 29, was sacked by the Australian Rugby Union on Wednesday, with ARU chief executive John O’Neill saying the player had received a letter two years ago warning that further contract breaches would not be tolerated.
Representatives of Tuqiri have said the 67-Test veteran will fight his axing through the courts.
Tuqiri appeared briefly outside his home on Thursday to talk to reporters, but did not reveal why he had been sacked.
"It’s a legal matter. It’s with the lawyers," he said. "It’s a contract dispute and we’re going from there. Thanks for your support and hopefully you’ll see me playing somewhere soon."
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.
The reality for Tuqiri is that unless he is willing to accept a significant pay cut, France or Japan rugby beckons as his likely destination, reports said.
NRL club officials contacted by Sydney newspapers said they would be constrained by their salary caps in any bid to hire Tuqiri.
"He’d have to be paid about one-fifth of what he’s currently being paid and do five times more work," Canterbury Bulldogs chief executive Todd Greenberg told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Former Broncos teammate and Test skipper Darren Lockyer said: "I doubt he’d come back to the NRL. Lote’s played a fair bit of (rugby) union and the money those guys can get overseas, we can’t compete with it."
Parramatta officials were also backtracking from earlier comments about the prospect of Tuqiri finding his way to their club.
Former Wallabies’ coach Eddie Jones was reported Friday saying he would consider taking Tuqiri to Japanese club Suntory, where he is coaching director.
"The timing of it (sacking) has been done in spite, with no thought about his welfare. The handling of the matter is very undignified," Jones said of his former ARU employers.
The Daily Telegraph said the ARU’s bold vision to recruit high-profile rugby league stars was in tatters with Tuqiri joining Wendell Sailor and Mat Rogers as rugby discards.
"Tuqiri’s departure follows Sailor being sacked after testing positive to cocaine and Rogers quitting the code to return to the NRL," it said.
Rogers on Friday said the sacking was done on July 1 to inflict as much pain as possible on Tuqiri with the deadlines for NRL and French rugby registration expiring on June 30.