THE NEW ZEALAND Rugby Union has question Luke McAlister’s attitude after it was revealed he and the national body are at loggerheads over a $60,000 payment for his early release so he can take up a lucrative contract in France.
It comes after the 30-test five-eighths, who is contracted to the NZRU until the end of the year, was scratched for North Harbour’s ITM Cup season-opening game against Otago in Dunedin tonight, after failing to turn up for training earlier this week.
Harbour officials are furious, as calls from the provincial union seeking his whereabouts have since gone unanswered.
His agent and father, Charlie, said that McAlister Jnr was caring for his ill son, who has a heart condition and has been in hospital for the past 10 days.
However, NZRU general manager of professional rugby, Neil Sorensen, did not believe that was true, after McAlister Sr told the national body yesterday that his son wanted out of his contract so he can take up a three-year deal with Toulouse.
“Charlie has asked for Luke to be released early to join Toulouse. He doesn't want to play ITM Cup,” Sorensen told RugbyHeaven.
“If you had a sick kid you would ring your employer. To be frank, using the family type excuse, tugging on the heartstrings, wears a bit thin when this guy is hoping in the next couple of days he can disappear to France.”
McAlister, who missed out on the All Blacks’ Tri Nations squad, will only be granted an early release if he our Toulouse fronts up with the cash to buy out an existing contract.
It is expected to cost either party $60,000, which is the maximum, marquee salary at provincial level in New Zealand.
Sorensen confirmed that negotiations are currently taking place.
However, it appears the NZRU regrets moving mountains to bring him back from a two-year stint with Sale, who he joined after the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
“Absolutely we're disappointed. It's not as if this guy hasn't been given chances in New Zealand rugby,” says Sorensen.
“This is not the first time he's gone to seek his fortune offshore. We went to a lot of time, effort and expense to bring him back because we thought he could add some value and that's what they [Charlie and Luke] wanted.”« Back to Articles
With the series level, expect both teams to put it all on the line as they seek to win the deciding test in Sydney on Saturday night.