Hurricanes boss says young rugby player Teariki Ben-Nicholas assault 'disappointing'
The behaviour of promising young rugby star has been labelled "disappointing" by the Super Rugby boss in the capital.
Teariki Ben-Nicholas avoided conviction after punching his ex's date in the head.
The young loose forward plays his club rugby in Wellington, but also played for New Zealand's under-20 team last year and the Hurricanes under-20 team.
Hurricanes chief executive Avan Lee said it was disappointing to hear about what happened.
"From a Hurricanes perspective, we don't condone that kind of behaviour and if in the future he was playing well enough to be considered for the Hurricanes there would be an internal process to deal with that situation," Lee said.
Ben-Nicholas had played one match for the Hurricanes U20s side against the Blues in 2015 and was not on the Hurricanes books.
"We would strongly prefer not to have players within the Hurricanes system who have a history of behaviour like that.
"Not everyone is perfect so these things would need to be considered on a case by case basis," he said.
Lee said the severity of the incident would be a factor.
"A serious incident would mean the conversation would not go further. But if the incident was not severe, we would look at rehabilitation, what a person has done to better themselves or prove that was a one off."
"There are examples in sport of people who have made mistakes. Some have come back and others haven't."
The New Zealand Rugby Union ran an intense course for young rugby players joining the professional ranks. Some of the things on the agenda were how to handle alcohol and drugs and young women, Lee said.
Ben-Nicholas' Old-Boys University club president Bryan Gundersen said if any action would be taken it would be done by the club's committee.
At this stage there was no suggestion any sanctions would be placed on the player, Gunderson said.
Ben-Nicholas moved from Auckland to Wellington to study law and commerce.
According to court documents released to The NZ Herald, Ben-Nicholas was out drinking in Wellington, following a "rugby success" in October 2014 when he found out his ex girlfriend was at a Wellington bar with her new boyfriend.
A "slightly intoxicated" Ben-Nicholas went to the bar, approached the other man in the toilets and punched him in the head.
The 20-year-old admitted a charge of common assault in relation to the incident and made a "full and genuine apology" during a restorative justice meeting, The Herald reported.
At sentencing in the Wellington District Court, Judge Peter Rollo granted an application for a discharge without conviction.
Judge Rollo said the consequences of a conviction would be out of proportion to the seriousness of the offence.
However, police opposed the application for a discharge, arguing the assault was serious and any effects on travel plans and work as a professional rugby player were not certain.
During last month's sentencing Judge Rollo said: "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 also noted the aspiring player had a back-up plan, referring to his academic study.
"So, I have the clear view that you are someone who should be given a second chance to reach your full potential without a conviction standing in the way of that, and, in coming to that view, I then emphasise you have expressed genuine remorse, an apology, you have had insight into the causes of your offending [and] you recognise the mistake which you made in a serious way.
"You have taken appropriate steps to endeavour to address that and you have the possible glittering career ahead of you. In large part, I perceive from the victim impact statement from the restorative justice conference that the male victim does not want to stand in the way of your advancement either, which is to his credit."
Ben-Nicholas was ordered to pay his victim $500 for emotional harm.