Clarke confident Reds' departures won't trigger exodus

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Rugby Australia CEO Rob Clarke is confident the departure of Izack Rodda, Isaac Lucas and Harry Hockings won't set a precedent for Australian players looking to exit contracts and head overseas early.

The trio were immediately released from their contracts on Saturday and are expected to search for new homes overseas, most likely in Japan where rugby salaries have remained stable despite the pandemic.

Rodda, Lucas and Hockings were the only three players to refuse to salary cuts or sign up to JobKeeper and the QRU opted to stand them down as the team returned to training, bringing the dispute to a head.

RELEASED TRIO TO HEAD OFFSHORE

Clarke said despite the uncertainty, he was confident Saturday's news would not trigger a rush of players looking to move overseas.

"We haven't had any indication from RUPA or any other players that they are looking beyond our shores," he said.

"I fully understand the challenges the players are going through and it's no different to the staff.

"Having to make the decisions we have have been felt heavily by everybody involved but we're not Robinson Crusoe there.

"Every single business in this country and frankly many around the world are facing the same decisions and I think it's prudent to note that other rugby economies are suffering as much as we are.

'I'd expect the challenges that they have are exactly the same and therefore they're taking similar action so we live in a global economy in the rugby world and we are just part of it and I think therefore other options for any players thinking this is a ticket to a golden pot I think will be sorely disappointed."

Australia's remaining professional players have agreed to an average of 60 per cent cuts until September 30 and what player wages look like beyond then will largely depend on Rugby Australia's financial situation.

The key for Rugby Australia in shoring up some financial security is finalising a broadcast deal for this season with a shortened domestic Super Rugby season and then for 2021 and beyond.

Clarke said he was confident there would be "clarity" on a deal for an abridged 2020 Super Rugby competition within the next fortnight.

"As you know that's a number one priority for me and the business and we had very fruitful discussions with our current broadcast partner in Fox Sports this week about how the shape, the balance of this year looks," he said.

"Those discussions will continue next week and I'm confident we'll get some clarity within a week or two.

"Given that we're trying to kick off a Super Rugby season domestically on the 3rd and 4th of July time is of the essence and those conversations are well advanced.

Clarke was able to shed little light on whether players should be concerned about their contracts once the current reduced pay deal expires on September 30.

"There's a lot of water under the bridge to go before we know with certainty how the balance of this year clears up and then of course what next year looks like," he said.

"We'll work through that methodically and we'll keep RUPA and our players fully informed as we go."

The Sunwolves could yet be part of Super Rugby later in 2020. Photo: Getty ImagesA broadcast agreement and the confirmation of the Sunwolves and the Western Force's involvement in the competition are the final building blocks for the tournament, aiming to kick off at July 3 and 4.

While the Force said last week they were yet to receive a "formal" invitation to the competition, they have been part of discussions and Rugby Australia officials are confident that the WA side will be part of the shortened tournament.

With border restrictions in place in WA, the Force would likely need to be relocated into an east coast hub, similar to the AFL's Fremantle and West Coast sides.

While the Sunwolves' involvement still appears unlikely due to travel restrictions, Clarke said they haven't yet entirely ruled out the Japanese team's chances of playing.

"We're still in discussion with the Sunwolves and the Australian government on that," he said.

"As you can imagine it's not a quick process to get clarity certainly from the government in the first instance and then the Sunwolves having to react to that to understand exactly what they can do in what time frame.

"We're working dilligently on it but we don't have a final answer."

This article does not necessarily reflect the views of Rugby Australia or its member unions.