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Slurred Speech, Bloodshot Eyes: Inside Wallaby Tolu Latu’s Drink-Driving Charge

Tolu Latu was slumped over his steering wheel, drunk and asleep, when his car started rolling forward into a major intersection.

It was 4.23am, just down the road from Sydney’s Rugby headquarters and the passed-out Wallabies and Waratahs player had no idea of the danger.

Thankfully, members of the public had seen him. They tried to wake him without success, and when the vehicle started rolling forward, they sprang into action, applied the handbrake and removed the keys from the ignition.

Police and paramedics were summoned to the corner of Anzac Parade and Cleveland Street at Moore Park, and when they finally roused Latu, he had extremely slurred speech, was unaware of his surroundings or where he was, smelt strongly of intoxicating liquor and had bloodshot eyes.

He blew 0.135 — normally a mid-range drink driving offence, but Latu was a red p-plater, and a month earlier he’d clocked up enough demerit points for his licence to be suspended.

Tolu Latu leaves the Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney, Friday, June 14. Photo: AAP

After leaving Surry Hills police station around sunrise he managed to make it to the Waratahs training mid-morning.

If anyone noticed he was worse for wear, it went unreported, and Latu neglected to mention his run-in with the law to rugby bosses. They found out when the media got wind of it.

On Friday, in the Downing Centre Local Court, he was a handed fine totalling $1,300 and was ordered off the road for three months. An alcohol interlock device will be installed in his car for a full year once his suspension ends.

Latu’s solicitor told the court his client was mourning the death of his uncle two months earlier and had recently come out of a six-year relationship.

He said Latu had been “drowning his sorrows” at his local pub, the Milestone Hotel in Leichhardt, walked home, then “made a poor decision to jump in a vehicle to go to a friend’s place.”

Tolu Latu during a training session with the Waratahs in Sydney. Photo: AAP

Latu pleaded guilty to mid-range drink driving and driving while suspended at his first court appearance on June 6, but sentencing proceedings were adjourned for a week so he could attend a traffic offender course, where he learnt about the consequences of dangerous behaviour on the road.

“Really bad things could have happened,” Magistrate Daniel Covington told Latu.

“Thankfully, you were caught.”

“Go away and think about it and speak to others,” he said.

Latu’s lawyer described his client as a “hardworking man” and “a role model to the rugby, Pacific Islander and Australian communities.”

As he left the court with his mother Latu told 10 News First of his regret.

“I made a mistake and I just want to move on and continue to be a role model for those kids,” he said.

But his troubles aren’t over. A member of Rugby Australia’s integrity unit was on the front row of the court’s public gallery, and further sanctions are expected to be handed down, now the legal proceedings are complete.