Brawl may have cost a promising young rugby player his career

By Jimmy Ellingham

Teariki Ben-Nicholas made his debut for the New Zealand under-20 team last year. Photo / Supplied
Teariki Ben-Nicholas made his debut for the New Zealand under-20 team last year. Photo / Supplied

A promising young rugby player's assault on his ex girlfriend's new man might affect his chances of a Super Rugby call-up.

Teariki Ben-Nicholas, 20, made his debut for the New Zealand under-20 team last year and also played a game for the Hurricanes under-20 side.

Before Christmas he was discharged without conviction in the Wellington District Court on a charge of common assault, stemming from an incident in October 2014.

Hurricanes chief executive Avan Lee said today Ben-Nicholas wasn't on the Hurricanes books this year.

He had played one game for the age group team last year, against the Blues.

Asked if the court case could affect future selection, Mr Lee said: "It could do".

"In an ideal world, we wouldn't want to have any players that have any sort of history like that, but that's a decision for the coaches and then it would be a discussion between the coaches and myself on whether or not that was appropriate."

Mr Lee said such a discussion would be about how the person had acted since their court appearance.

"From our perspective, he played one game for the Hurricanes under-20s last year, he's not contracted to the Hurricanes, but obviously any rugby player involved in a situation is not something we like to see and we certainly don't condone that kind of behaviour."

Mr Lee was unaware of the discharge until today.

Court documents reveal Ben-Nicholas was out drinking after a "rugby success" when he learned his ex was at a Wellington bar with her new boyfriend.

A "slightly intoxicated" Ben-Nicholas went there, approached the other man in the toilets and punched him in the head. He later made a "full and genuine apology" at a restorative justice meeting.

At sentencing, the judge granted an application for a discharge without conviction, saying the consequences of a conviction would be out of proportion to the seriousness of the offence.

Police opposed the application, arguing that the assault was serious and any effects on travel plans and work as a professional rugby player were not certain.

Judge Peter Rollo told Ben-Nicholas: "The information which is before me suggests that you have every opportunity to pursue a professional rugby career at the top level, maybe even rising as far as the All Blacks if your development continues."

He noted Ben-Nicholas, educated at King's College in Auckland, also had a plan B, in academic study.

Ben-Nicholas was ordered to pay his victim $500 for emotional harm.

He was last year named Victoria University's Pasifika sportsman of the year. In Wellington, he plays senior rugby for the Old-Boys University club.

Club president Bryan Gundersen said it would be unlikely to sanction Ben-Nicholas. "From my perspective as president, if any action would be taken it would be done by the club's committee and it has not reached our agenda yet."

New Zealand Rugby officials were aware of the incident, New Zealand under-20 campaign manager Mike Anthony said today.

"Teariki Ben-Nicholas fully disclosed to New Zealand under-20 selectors the legal process he was involved in last year," Mr Anthony said.

"On that basis the selectors decided to include him in the squad that played in the Oceania under-20 tournament but he did not make the final cut for the World Rugby Under-20 Championship."

He has never been a contracted player, and the incident did not occur during his time with the under-20s team so the issue of misconduct did not arise."

- NZ Herald

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