Super Rugby - Beale to test Australia's capacity for forgiveness

Kurtley Beale has drawn praise for his decision to enter a private health clinic to tackle his alcohol problems, and while the troubled Wallabies back has walked a fine line with his behaviour, Australian rugby is unlikely to turn its back on one of its brightest stars.

Rugby - McKenzie pleased with Beale switch

View photo

Kurtley Beale (PA Photos)

Blessed with explosive pace and skill in abundance, the 24-year-old playmaker has been treated with patience since first donning the Wallabies' golden jersey in 2009 as a callow 20-year-old against Wales.

Australian rugby's capacity for forgiveness was evident when Beale was reinstated by the Melbourne Rebels little more than a month after punching two team mates in a boozy incident on the team bus in South Africa in March.

That tolerance appeared naive when it emerged last week that Beale had broken a team-imposed no-alcohol policy only a night after his return to action for the Rebels against the Chiefs earlier this month.

Promptly stood down for the second time this season, Beale would take a leave of absence from rugby after voluntarily checking himself into a clinic, the Rebels said on Monday.

The move drew praise from Beale's former Wallabies team mate Drew Mitchell, who voiced his approval on Twitter, but Beale's availability for the upcoming British and Irish Lions tour will be the subject of fierce speculation as he recovers in seclusion.

"Another infringement is disappointing," Bob Dwyer, who coached Australia to their first World Cup triumph in 1991, told Reuters by telephone. "The guy is obviously a massive talent. He does things other people couldn't even dream of doing.

"But you can't continually break the law and expect to stay out of jail."

Australia coach Robbie Deans names his first 25-man squad for the three-test series against the Lions on Sunday, but will name another six players when the Super Rugby season takes a break next month for the international window.

The first Lions test will be held in Brisbane on June 22, giving Beale less than six weeks to prove he is healthy.

Otherwise an automatic selection in Deans's starting 15, Beale's ability to slot back into top-flight rugby after a lengthy layoff was showcased by a brilliant half-hour cameo for the Rebels against New Zealand's Chiefs.

Having missed two months of rugby due to injury and his club suspension for striking out in South Africa, Beale came off the bench to score a brilliant individual try and set up another to drive the Rebels to the verge of an upset victory over the defending champions.

The temptation to rush Beale back into the Wallabies for the series against the Lions, which comes around once every 12 years, would be strong, but could also be fraught with danger.

James Pitts, the CEO of Sydney-based Odyssey House, a clinic that treats drug and alcohol addictions, said the player might need more time.

"The sports administrators might say, 'Well, the best thing for him is to get right back into rugby,'" Pitts, a former professional basketballer who also struggled with drug addiction, told Reuters.

"I don't know ... He might need a little bit more time.

"I don't think that people want to make a decision that's not in the best interests of the individual but ... if they provide a significant contribution to their club then certainly the club is going to want to get him back."


Beale's value to rugby in Australia goes far beyond his exploits on the playing field, with his Aboriginal heritage and roots in a working class suburb of Sydney making him an ambassador for the sport among local indigenous communities.

Raised in hardscrabble Mt Druitt, far from the waterfront mansions lining Sydney's iconic harbour, Beale earned an indigenous scholarship to renowned rugby nursery St Joseph's College, where his dominance for the school's first 15 led to a contract with Super Rugby's New South Wales Waratahs at 16.

Anointed a future Wallaby even before finding his feet in club competition, Beale initially struggled to live up to the hype, battling injuries and ballooning weight at the Waratahs.

Further problems emerged with his transition to the big-time.

Within weeks of making his 2009 Wallabies debut as a 20-year-old off the bench against Wales, Beale was charged with assaulting a teenage cousin at a party.

He was acquitted the following year, but a month later he came under further scrutiny for urinating in public near a Brisbane nightclub following a test match against Ireland.

Beale was slapped with a A$5,000 fine by the ARU and made a public apology, admitting he had drunk excessively.

More controversy was to come last June following a scuffle with security staff outside a Brisbane bar while in the company of Cooper, which led to another assault charge.

The charge was dropped after the parties agreed not to take it to court, police said last month.

Beale's long-term mentor Glen Ella, brother of Wallabies great Mark, told local media this week he should put aside any thoughts of playing against Lions, or even playing rugby for a time.

However, taking a break from rugby may prove difficult for a young man whose whole life has been built around his talent in the sport, added Pitts.

"Especially for young guys, you get someone who's super talented, they're thrust into a situation where there's a lot of expectation, and other people are always telling them 'you're great'.

"Sometimes they don't experience what real life is like.

"It's probably a situation in which he's in a very senior position very early and maybe he's just not coping with the expectation."

View comments (0)