Wulf freed to join Toulon, must play NPC first

DAVID LONG
Last updated 10:58 19/08/2012
Rudi Wulf
JASON OXENHAM / Fairfax NZ
AU REVOIR: Rudi Wulf has been allowed out of his contract to head to France, but will still have to play the provincial season for North Harbour.

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Blues want-away winger Rudi Wulf will be granted an early release to play for Toulon this season after the French club agreed to pay compensation to the NZRU.

Wulf, who has a year left on his contract with the NZRU and Blues, is desperate to get back to the South of France for personal reasons. He agreed a two-year deal to go back to Toulon a couple of months ago, but he needed to break his current contract to do that.

Initially the NZRU were reluctant to let him go.

It sends out a bad message to other players thinking they can get out of contracts and sign lucrative overseas deals, while the Blues need players of his quality next year.

But the NZRU has relented and allowed Wulf to go back to Toulon, resigned to the fact that there was little point keeping hold of a player who was so eager to get away and would clearly be unhappy at the Blues next season.

However, the NZRU hasn't allowed Wulf just to walk away. It has insisted that he play out the entire provincial season for North Harbour and that Toulon pay compensation for his early release.

Ironically, last year Toulon allowed Wulf to break his contract with them to come back to New Zealand.

That was because he had split with his partner, who had returned to New Zealand with their son, Isaiah, and he wanted to be closer to him.

It is the second year in a row Harbour have been stuck with a player on their books who is desperate to get away.

Last season Luke McAlister was desperate to leave the province and join up with Toulouse.

In that instance McAlister made it clear that he had little interest in playing for the province by not turning up to a training session early in the season. After two games he said he wasn't able to play because of a hamstring injury.

However, when Harbour sent him away for a scan they could find no evidence of the supposed injury. In the end they relented and allowed McAlister to go early once he and Toulouse paid back a portion of his $60,000 provincial salary.

Harbour will be hoping that there are no such shenanigans with Wulf, and that he'll give his all for the entire season.

But Wulf's absence does leave incoming Blues coach John Kirwan with a big problem.

Already gone from the backs from this year's squad are Lachie Munro and Isaia Toeava, while Alby Mathewson and Sherwin Stowers are off contract.

The Blues may have made a number of signings for next year, including the perplexing decision to lure Chris Noakes from the Highlanders, but they are desperately short of experience in the outside backs.

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