UPDATE: "There is no avenue open to them in Australia" - Reds trio to head offshore after contract releases

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

UPDATE: Izack Rodda, Isaac Lucas and Harry Hockings are set to be lost to Australian rugby for the short-term at least after being released from their contracts on Saturday.

The trio was stood down on Monday after refusing to take salary cuts agreed to by the wider professional playing base.

On Friday, the group’s management announced they would seek contract termination over "repudiatory" conduct and after discussions with the QRU and Rugby Australia, they have been released from their contracts effective immediately.

It had been suggested Rodda was interested in staying in Australia and switching Super Rugby franchises but Rugby Australia CEO Rob Clarke confirmed on Saturday morning that they wouldn't be playing in Australia any time soon.

Lucas and Rodda both inked multi-year extensions mere months ago while Hockings is off-contract this year but was in the midst of negotiating before the pandemic took hold of rugby.

Japan is their expected destination, a path well trodden by a number of Anthony Picone's clients in recent years including Campbell Magnay and Samu Kerevi.

Isaac Lucas is one of Queensland's most promising youngsters. Photo: Getty ImagesJapanese salaries have remained largely unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic making the Top League an even more attractive prospect than it has been in recent years, while other rugby unions around the world have been asking players and staff to take major cuts.

"They've made their decision and if they wish to go overseas then that's their decision," Clarke said.

"There's no avenue open to them in Australia at his time.

"Our understanding is there may be some interest in Japan but that's not confirmed as far as we know.

"We just don't believe that 189 players around the country and around 150 staff have all committed to sharing the pain of COVID across our great game and in partnership with RUPA who have worked dilligently to try and get those players to understand some of the challenges the game's facing but this is the most prudent course of action for the three that weren't prepared to sign up to that plan.

Clarke wouldn't be drawn on whether the trio would be welcomed back into Australian rugby in years to come, though with his tenure set to last six months at most, it's not a decision he will likely be involved in.

Saturday's agreement ended the possibility of any drawn out legal battle between the players and Australian rugby.

"Going to court is always the last resort and it's a brutal ending to any conflict so you would always like to try and mediate and conciliate along the way to try and get to an outcome that suits both parties. In this case, we haven't been able to," he said.

"As Johnno said earlier this week, we're very disappointed because those players were part of how we saw the future but they had their rights and they're entitled to do what they've done."

The group have been largely criticised by the public in the wake of their decision and Clarke said that criticism was something they would have to be able to live with.

"We all have to face the consequences of our decisions in life don't we?," he said.

"I'm not going to speak on behalf of those players, they can speak for themselves. My job is to protect the game and Johnno's job is to protect the game and to build the foundation for the future and that's what all of our energy right this moment is going towards."

The involvement of Picone has also raised some eyebrows about advice being given to the players but Rugby Australia director of Rugby Scott Johnson was quick to say that ultimately the decision rest with the players.

"It needs to be clear that the player actually pays in this case their representatives, so it's the player that makes these decisions," he said.

"They inform us who we should speak to.

"Most of the dialogue's been through the agent in this case but we think we're deluding ourselves the fact that the player hasn't had an input and understood the ramifications.

"So it's not just one person that's made that decision. They've got their rights, they're entitled to those rights, it's disappointing from a rugby front but I can't speak on behalf of the players nor their agent."