LUKE McALISTER is free to join Toulouse, after being granted an early release from his North Harbour and New Zealand Rugby Union contracts.
An NZRU statement this morning quoted North Harbour chief executive Brett Hollister, who said the player would be free to link up with the French outfit later this week.
"We've worked with the New Zealand Rugby Union to negotiate an appropriate release with Luke, including an early release fee," says Hollister
"We're obviously very disappointed that he is leaving during our 2011 ITM Cup campaign – as our season was planned on the expectation Luke would play for us. The reality is he wishes to start his new contract in Toulouse this month and for us that means finishing the ITM Cup season without him.”
His last performance for the Albany-based side will be in tomorrow night’s clash against Counties Manukau.
However, it is unknown if he will take part in this game, as he is battling a hamstring injury.
Whatever the case, it ends a messy episode which occurred two months after he signed with the French Top 14 club.
McAlister has barely been sighted for North Harbour this season.
He failed to turn up to up to the team’s first training of the season. His excuse at the time was that he was caring for his sick son, but the NZRU did not believe him and even publicly criticised him.
It later emerged he was trying to negotiate an early release from his New Zealand rugby contracts.
Having left New Zealand to take up a lucrative contract with Bath following the 2007 Rugby World Cup, McAlister was controversially enticed back and then fast-tracked into the All Blacks in 2009.
"While this is a disappointing end to Luke's career in New Zealand, we have agreed that this is the best outcome for everyone involved and we wish him well,” says NZRU general manager of Professional Rugby Neil Sorensen.
This weekend throws up another set of games which could go either way.
Which player was unlucky not to make the Wallabies’ preliminary squad for the British and Irish Lions series?