Dual international Andrew Walker has urged the Australian Rugby Union to "cuddle" Kurtley Beale, claiming the governing body has "left him out to dry" and could push the indigenous role model to rugby league.
Beale faces an independent disciplinary tribunal on Friday to determine his rugby future. He is alleged to have sent lewd texts and offensive images to former Wallabies staffer Di Patston, who has since resigned along with coach Ewen McKenzie.
Walker, who endured his own controversies in his NRL and rugby union careers, said the ARU should have dealt with the Beale incident immediately instead of letting it drag on and fester.
"They should have just nipped it in the bud and left it in-house," Walker said.
"The man's mucked up and he's paying for it now.
"They should've cuddled him, embraced him and said, 'mate, we'll look after you', not left him out to dry.
"He's out there trying to defend himself ... he's out in the wilderness."
Walker is well placed to empathise with Beale. He was a brilliant talent on the field, playing 145 NRL games with the Dragons, Roosters and Sea Eagles as well as a Test for Australia.
He switched to rugby union with the ACT Brumbies, winning a premiership in 2001 and representing the Wallabies in seven Tests.
But Walker also endured off-field controversies. He infamously walked out on a 2001 Wallabies camp at Coffs Harbour citing homesickness; he was involved in alcohol-related incidents; and he also battled with depression.
Walker knows Beale personally and said, despite his troubles, he could still be a valuable indigenous role model.
"Please look after the man, he's done great for the sport, and if they keep pushing him away he'll go to rugby league," Walker said.
"We should be looking after the indigenous blokes like that. Not many indigenous players come and thrive in this sport."
Beale signed with the NSW Waratahs when he was just 16, won the John Eales Medal in 2011 and was a crucial cog in the NSW Waratahs winning this year's Super Rugby title.
Waratahs and new Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is doing everything he can to keep Beale in Australian rugby, but concedes he'll have no bearing on Beale's fate at Friday's code-of-conduct hearing.
The 33-man Wallabies squad flies out for their five-match tour of Europe 10 minutes prior to Beale's hearing. While Cheika would love to have his NSW Waratahs playmaker on the plane, he was wary of prejudicing Beale's hearing.
"There's no doubt he had a great season last year. But I'm sure that Friday everything that needs to get done will get done," Cheika said on Thursday. "But it's pretty important that I stay out of it and let it take its course."
Cheika said he spoke to Beale earlier this week, while ARU chief Bill Pulver admitted during his unveiling of the new Wallabies coach that the pair had discussed the backline ace during contract negotiations.
Now living in Queensland, Walker was back in Canberra on Thursday to help raise awareness of adolescent suicide in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Walker played buroinjin, an indigenous form of handball, with his former Brumbies teammates Joe Roff and Stephen Larkham as part of the Djijah Whyman Memorial Cup at the University of Canberra.
"It's a good concept having all these celebrities come in and playing with the kids. It just lightens up their day," Walker said.
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