"It's only natural to have concerns": Players await news of 2021 competition

Super Rugby - AU
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Brumbies prop James Slipper says players are anxious to see what rugby will look like in 2021 as many mull their own future beyond this season.

Players are currently on an average 60 per cent pay cut until the end of September, though that could be renegotiated with the 

The confirmation of a broadcast deal and competition for 2020 earlier this month was the first dose of relief for players but Slipper said there was still a sense of anxiety around what next year looks like.

Without a broadcast deal locked in for 2021 and beyond, Rugby Australia is still uncertain of its major source of revenue and that leaves may 

For players with contracts, many are uncertain whether those contracts will be honoured in full while players off contract are still unable to sign new deals amid a contracting freeze.

A host of players have been linked with overseas deals while Rebels winger Marika Koroibete is one high-profile player reportedly being heavily chased by NRL clubs in the event that his contract through to 2022 can't be fulfilled.

Slipper, who signed a new deal before the Super Rugby shutdown, said there was still a level of concern among players with no news about next season confirmed.

"It's only natural to have concerns, I still do," he said.

"I guess that's where we're at, it's in a time, it's a pandemic so there's outside forces that are changing day to day. we don't really know what the competition's going to look like next year and that's probably the biggest issue we've got.

"We've got an international game with international borders that need to be crossed to play games against different countries.

"That's probably our biggest challenge.

"We've obviously got this competition starting this year but the sooner we can get a competition in place for next year then a lot of the players will be at ease and contracts.

"I've got a contract but there's blokes out there who aren't contracted at all.

"That's a real big issue for the game going forward is what we're going to do next year but at the same time we've got to get through this year first."

Slipper acknowledged the game was in a challenging spot after lean years in both Super Rugby and at Test level, particularly since 2016.

The loosehead said Australian rugby teams had to start winning consistently to take the biggest steps in bringing positivity to the sport.

"We haven't really had results with the Wallabies for a few years now and our Super teams have struggled, to be fair," he said.

"At the end of the day, we need to start making some changes with the way we go about our business and try and have more of a winning mindset.

"You can look into all areas of the game but at the end of the day, we've just got to perform.

"You've got to be more competitive and we've got to make sure we turn up and get some results. I guess that's what's so (exciting) about this comp, there's going to be a real spotlight on Australian rugby because we're playing derbies every weekend so there's direct competition for Australian teams going forward under (Wallabies coach) Dave Rennie and that's going to produce a bit of a fiery few matches."

The Brumbies have been a major source of optimism for Australian rugby fans this year after a strong start to their Super Rugby campaign.

Leading the Australian conference comfortably by the time the season was shut down, the ACT side have won their past five Australian derbies, including taking victories over each of the other Aussie conference sides this year.

The Rebels have already labelled the Brumbies the competition benchmark but Slipper said that wouldn't affect his approach to the competition.

"It doesn't bother me," he said.

"I can only speak personally, at the end of the day we're going to go out there and try and win.

"I'm not really interested in excuses or any of that business. I know it's going to be tight, it's going to be a tight game.

"All these Australian derbies are always tight, they're always hard games and we're going to have to play them away and at home so it's going toeven up over time and we've just got to make sure we play the game we want to play and we're confident in that game."

The Brumbies take on the Rebels at GIO Stadium on Saturday July 4, kicking off at 7:15pm AEST, LIVE on Foxtel, Foxtel Now and Kayo Sports. Buy a Kayo subscription here.

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