Like many a relationship the one between Danny Cipriani and the Melbourne Rebels ended in tears. But not for the reasons everyone expected.
The mercurial Englishman and the Rebels parted ways on Monday, setting social media alight with questions about his latest indiscretion.
The Rebels defended the 24-year-old five-eighth, who has a history of off-field behavioural issues, and said Cipriani had simply decided to leave early so he could join Sale Sharks in northern England in time for the start of their season.
The tears, according to Cipriani, came after telling his Rebels teammates of his decision, leaving them to face the Bulls on Friday night without him or their injured Wallaby James O’Connor.
Cipriani, who is particularly close to O’Connor and fellow Wallaby Kurtley Beale, tweeted he couldn’t hold back the tears when telling the players his news.
“So I said goodbye to the boys: got 5/6 words out couldn’t hold my tears back. Thank u truly for making it special. Met some amazing people,” Cipriani tweeted.
“Very tight group of lads and only going to get stronger!! Thank you everyone… Some great memories.
“Going to be sad to leave all my team mates. Made some friends for life over here.”
Cipriani, capped seven times for England, couldn’t be contacted for further comment but Melbourne chief executive Steve Boland said he would be remembered for some of the Rebels’ best moments on the field.
Boland said the mid-season exit was always on the cards after he signed his three-year deal with Sale about six weeks ago.
“He was contracted to us until September but the English season starts in August and they start pre-season in June so it’s always a bit of a cross-over there.
“We knew from day one Danny’s eye was getting himself back in that England frame.”
Cipriani’s form was lacklustre in his last game against NSW but he showed flashes of brilliance in his time at Melbourne.
He also put his head down this season after being linked with a number of models and actresses as well as drinking issues in his first year.
With O’Connor sidelined until June with liver damage from the NSW game, Beale is set to step into the five-eighth role and he will be assisted in the backline by the return of skipper Stirling Mortlock.
His first appearance of the season was over-shadowed by Cipriani’s announcement.
Coach Damien Hill said the experience of Mortlock against the Bulls, who have only lost two games would be vital.
“There’s no substituting for 15 years’ experience at this level,” he said.
“He’s one of the most competitive players that I’ve ever come across and he’s our captain so it will be beneficial for him to rejoin our team.”