A captivating opening round of the Rugby League World Cup was soured with shocking news that Italian teammates James Tedesco and Shannon Wakeman were involved in a serious stoush in a Cairns pub overnight.
Reports are that Wakeman blindsided Tedesco believing the NRL star made several approaches on his girlfriend.
However, in a surprising twist, Tedesco pleaded with Italian officials to keen Wakeman in their World Cup team despite being punched.
In a bizzare scenario – that seemingly is only possible in rugby league – there are many puzzling questions that need to be answered.
Firstly, only in rugby league could Australian born players such as Tedesco and Wakeman be eligible to play for Italy, particularly after Tedesco played for NSW earlier this year and pledged his loyalty to Australia. You would think they would be grateful of the opportunity to be allowed to play for Italy and participate in the World Cup.
Secondly, why were they in the pub in the middle of their campaign when they had just suffered an upset loss to the lowly Ireland? Isn’t that what Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson got into similar trouble for during Origin camp before Game Three?
Most importantly, should either Tedesco or Wakeman be allowed to continue in Italy’s World Cup campaign? While Tedesco was willing to move past the incident, what message is it sending the rest of the team?
It’s alleged that Wakeman’s hotel pass was originally confiscated by angered team officials who ordered him to make his own arrangements back home to England. Both players were fined $10,000 by the Italian Rugby League with the money to be donated to the women’s game back home.
Wakeman vowed not to drink for the remainder of the Cup but it’s too little too late.
With the NRL integrity unit investigating the matter, it will be intriguing to see how World Cup organisers will decide upon what action to take against before they face the USA this weekend.