Waratahs don't want to be \"vultures\" in player dispute

Thu, May 21, 2020, 6:12 AM
Beth Newman
by Beth Newman
It's been a long journey back into Australia, but Waratahs coach Rob Penney is remaining upbeat in isolation.

Waratahs coach Rob Penney says the club won't be acting like a "vulture", swooping in on stood down Izack Rodda amid the lock's dispute with the QRU.

Rodda is one of three Queensland Reds players who were stood down this week after refusing to agree to a salary cut through to September 30.

While the implication of the trio's decision was that they were looking offshore, Rodda is reportedly interested in moving to another Super Rugby franchise.

Rodda was overlooked as the Reds captain this year and the decision made by Rodda and teammates Harry Hockings and Isaac Lucas is not believed to have gone down well with coach Brad Thorn.

The 23-year-old is currently signed through to the end of 2023 after re-signing with the Reds and Australian rugby late last year and there is still hope that he could find another Super Rugby home.

Both he and Lucas would need to break their long-term contracts if they were to leave Australian rugby while Hockings is off-contract at the end of this year but is considered an important figure in the Wallabies' future.

Thorn has shown his ruthlessness in disputes with players in the past, effectively exiling Quade Cooper, Karmichael Hunt and James Slipper from Ballymore over a variety of issues in 2018.

While there are hopes that the players and the Reds can find a resolution without a legal battle, there has been no official indication that a solution is imminent.

Penney said the Waratahs weren't lurking around the Reds situation to swoop on Rodda like a "vulture" but he stopped short of ruling out interest in acquiring the Test lock.

"It's a really unfortunate situation up there. The landscape's changing for everybody across all sports," he said.

"So the last thing you'd want to be seen to be doing is being the vulture hanging around a situation like that.

"Let's just hope Brad and the group can have some solid resolution.

Penney said it would be disappointing if the three were lost to Australian rugby because of the dispute.

"Obviously they are very important to Australian rugby and let's hope that they can resolve the issues they've got.

"Certainly I wouldn't want any of those boys leaving the country and not being able to represent their country at some point so from our end we're going to hunker down.

"We've got the boys excited in the Waratahs environment and we're excited to be working with them and we've got some points to prove."

With uncertainty surrounding the financial future of Australian rugby as interim CEO Rob Clarke works to finalise a broadcast deal for 2020 and a new agreement for 2021 and beyond, there are fears that more players will look offshore.

Penney said the temptations of overseas offers had always been on the table for southern hemisphere players but ultimately they couldn't stop players if they opted to leave.

"It's always been there, whether that becomes more aggressive in the short-term who knows?," he said.

"That's really out of our control in terms of the boys we're dealing with day-to-day.

"We've got a great group there. Clubs and organisations will always hunt talent from elsewhere.

"They've only got limited spots to take people so they all can't go and it's always been the role of going from club to a provincial type setup whether it's Super or whatever to develop and players will make their own choices for their own reasons.

"If they want to go then they go, if they want to stay and be part of something which hopefully is going to be really good going forward and rebuild the game here in Australia and leave a legacy that they can be really proud of then we obviously want them to stay and be a part of it and that's awesome."

The views expressed in this article are not necessarily reflective of Ruby Australia or its member unions.