Bevan Hurley

Bevan Hurley is the Herald on Sunday chief reporter.

Rugby: Ripia eyes a return to rugby

Disgraced rugby star Willie Ripia is eyeing a comeback to rugby this year. Photo / Getty Images.
Disgraced rugby star Willie Ripia is eyeing a comeback to rugby this year. Photo / Getty Images.

Disgraced rugby star Willie Ripia is eyeing a comeback to rugby this year.

The former first five-eighth told friends he was deciding whether to return to action in the ITM Cup - four months after he was caught stealing from his teammates at the Western Force Super Rugby team.

Ripia has been receiving counselling for gambling addiction since then.

Asked if he was playing any "code" he Tweeted: "Nah no code. Mixed thoughts at the mo. Maybe soon? Maybe never? maybe in nz/oz or further? Just dont know? Haha."

He said a decision was needed by the end of the month on ITM Cup prospects.

Ripia has been living with his parents in Rotorua since quitting Super Rugby on the eve of the new season, after he was confronted with footage showing him stealing money from teammates.

Rugby Players Association chief executive Rob Nichol said any return to the rugby field was not as important as helping Ripia deal with his problems.

"Willie may never go back to the rugby field and that's no big issue for us. We are more concerned with Willie Ripia and his future, what's right for him."

Nichol added that Ripia had been receiving help from the NZRPA for some years.

"Prior to his departure to Australia he was taking some fantastic steps. But sometimes you think you are several steps ahead of where you actually are."

He said Ripia, at 26, was young enough to deal with his problems.

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- Herald on Sunday

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