Mammoth ban may signal end of Tipoki's career
16 April 2006Â
By MICHAEL DONALDSON
His tattooed arms rested calmly on his thighs under the table, but the tension in his voice couldn't be hidden, as Rua Tipoki faced up to the possibility his rugby career could end with the 16-week suspension handed down to him yesterday.
Tipoki, described by his NPC coach Allan Pollock as a "tortured genius", looked only tortured as he reflected on the swinging elbow that fractured James Hilgendorf's eye socket.
The incident in Friday night's Blues-Force Super 14 match is the latest in a litany of skirmishes which have plagued the sweet-stepping New Zealand Maori centre.
It came less than a year after a punch that cut open South African Jean de Villiers' eye. Before that there was the episode where he broke both his hands punching a player in a Maori festival game, an incident he initially lied about, saying it was gym accident. And before that there was a reckless and dangerous tackle in August, 2000.
Tipoki admits his playing style needs a revamp, but is unsure if he can manage that change at age 27.
"I play a physical style and it's been to my detriment sometimes and it's cost me," Tipoki said.
"I'm just going to have to find ways to tighten it up but I don't know if I can find another approach to the game."
AdvertisementAdvertisementAsked if this ban could end his career, Tipoki said: "I'm going to have a really good look at it. Rugby has been going really good for me lately and that might help keep me in it, but at the moment I'm not sure."
Pollock, who backed Tipoki as a "quality man and a quality rugby player", said he would counsel his Harbour captain to stick with the game.
"He's experiencing some real self-doubt at the moment.
"But I've already told him that it won't get any worse than it seems right now. We'll spend some time together next week and talk about it, and we will find plenty of ways for Rua to add value to our organisation over the next 16 weeks."
Tipoki admitted he tried to "check" Hilgendorf as he joined a tackle being made by team-mate Luke McAlister, but that he never intended to injure his opponent.
"It was just another careless, sloppy action by myself which has resulted in an injury to another player and a hefty suspension for myself, so all I can do is accept responsibility for my actions and what's come about and just say that I never intended to injure James."
He said he'd tried to contact Hilgendorf to apologise, but hadn't been able to get in touch with him.
The Blues haven't decided whether to appeal against the sentence, which team manager Ant Strachan said fell "within the range" of the penalty set down for an intentional use of the elbow.
The committee considered that the offending was serious, that there was little to be said in Tipoki's favour by way of mitigation, and noted that he had two previous appearances before the judiciary for striking offences.
Because of the nature of the offending, the significance of the injury to Hilgendorf and the absence of mitigating factors, the committee determined that Tipoki should be suspended for 16 weeks.
The suspension is the heaviest sentence the Sanzar judiciary has handed out to a New Zealand player.
Force five-eighths Hilgendorf said the blow from Tipoki had caused his eye to swell up almost before he had hit the ground.
"I tried to open my eyes, but one of them just stayed shut. It swelled up very quickly, and I knew it was pretty serious. I have had a couple of (medical) opinions, and I will see a surgeon when I get back to Perth, but fingers crossed I won't need an operation."
thought this would have been posted already. saw a replay of the incident and it didnt look to bad, thought he was just putting in a shoulder, but it was an elbow but oh well he looked pretty remorseful in the interview