A former Dunedin man who died in Bali while on a rugby trip may have drunk a potent local cocktail that has been linked to 29 deaths.

Questions surround how Michael Denton (29), a prominent Perth rugby player on tour with his Nedlands Rugby Union Football Club, died in September.

The club's president, Hans Sauer, has been reported in The West Australian newspaper, as saying "maybe we're clutching at straws but he did drink one of those cocktails on the day he died".

"He was fit and always looked after his health."


The cocktails contain arak, made from fermented rice, palm sap and other ingredients. If it contained methanol it could be fatal.

In 2009, 25 people died of alcohol poisoning after drinking arak containing methanol, a by-product of the incorrect distillation of ethanol.

In the same week Mr Denton died, a New South Wales nurse suffered suspected brain damage and kidney failure possibly related to a similar drink she had on the Indonesian island of Lombok.

His Dunedin family yesterday declined to comment on the claims, saying they were still waiting for professional and medical reports following his autopsy.

The club was holding an auction, including All Blacks and Wallabies jerseys, to raise funds for his family and had reportedly retired his number 10 jersey for next season to honour the premier grade player.