A tale of bro­ken prom­ises

CityPress - - Sport - DAN RETIEF sports@city­press.co.za

A young Aus­tralian rugby player has re­vealed the full ex­tent of the de­ceit al­legedly prac­tised by Cheeky Wat­son and the East­ern Prov­ince Rugby Union (EPRU) in con­tract­ing play­ers for the Kings un­der false pre­tences.

James Hil­ter­brand, a 26-year-old hooker try­ing to break into the main­stream of pro­fes­sional rugby, was signed by the Kings in Novem­ber 2015.

He claims his con­tract was con­cluded by Wat­son in his ca­pac­ity as the head of mul­ti­ple bod­ies form­ing part of the EPRU and the Kings.

Hail­ing from Ade­laide, a back­wa­ter in terms of rugby union, Hil­ter­brand made his way from South Aus­tralia to Syd­ney to join Manly, one of the coun­try’s top clubs.

He man­aged from there to get an op­por­tu­nity at Western Force and his next port of call was Ed­in­burgh in Scot­land, where for­mer Spring­bok as­sis­tant and Kings coach Alan Solomons was in charge.

He was in­stru­men­tal in get­ting Hil­ter­brand an open­ing at the Kings and he signed a one-year Su­per Rugby con­tract with Wat­son and the Kings.

He trav­elled to Port El­iz­a­beth in Novem­ber 2015 and be­gan train­ing with the Kings. But on Novem­ber 31, his salary did not ma­te­ri­alise.

In spite of nu­mer­ous prom­ises, he was not paid by the Kings, the EPRU or EP Rugby, the union’s pro­fes­sional arm.

Hil­ter­brand is back in Aus­tralia and job­less – be­cause Su­per Rugby and other pro­fes­sional teams have al­ready con­firmed their squads for the 2016 sea­son.

He is one of 18 play­ers wait­ing to hear whether the money they’re owed – a col­lec­tive award by re­tired Judge Frank Kroon fol­low­ing an ar­bi­tra­tion hear­ing of some R12 mil­lion – will be paid by to­day’s dead­line.

If not, Hil­ter­brand has con­firmed that he and the other play­ers who are now out of con­tract will sue for ma­te­rial breach of con­tract with the in­tent to liq­ui­date the prov­ince’s rugby union.

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

BET­TER TIMES Tom Youngs of the Bri­tish & Ir­ish Lions is tack­led by James Hil­ter­brand of Western Force in 2013

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