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Andy Marinos detests disloyal tag as Jones eyes NRL stars

By Ned Lester
Eddie Jones at the Super Rugby Pacific launch event. Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images

Reports that suggest Eddie Jones and Rugby Australia’s emphasis on recruiting NRL talent to bolster the Wallabies team is being received poorly by the current Wallaby players have been rejected by Rugby Australia’s CEO Andy Marinos.

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The criticism comes by way of athlete manager David Rawlings, who represents Wallabies and Brumbies star Tom Wright as well as a host of NRL stars. Rawlins lashed out at Rugby Australia on the weekend, telling News Corp “The rugby players, in general, are sick of hearing about it. A lot of the boys are thinking, ‘if they want NRL players, we’ll have to look elsewhere’. It’s become a debacle.

“What about looking after your own? Loyalty works both ways. Look at the sacrifices the players have made in rugby.”

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Jones has openly expressed interest in a number of NRL players and rumours have circulated with names who may have been approached by Rugby Australia about a high-paying code switch.

Marinos however questioned the legitimacy of the claim and deflected to reaffirm RA’s stance on recruitment as purely looking to ensure the competitive landscape of the Australian game going forward.

“It hasn’t come directly to me but we are aware of the narrative in the media,” he said. “What we are really trying to aim for is to retain all of our best talent, and making sure we have good, competitive teams for the World Cups coming up, and Lions tours and everything in between.”

Marinos pointed to the recent re-signings of nine Wallabies as proof RA’s loyalty to the Wallaby players was healthy.

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“I think we are demonstrating that with the number of signings we are rolling out, and their long-term nature. We are working pretty hard [on contracting] but it has been hard as we come out of a depressed financial environment and we are really starting to rebuild now, and setting our sights for the future.

“It is about retaining our players and looking to see how we can improve the playing environment and our rosters.”

That depressed financial environment was called out by Souths chief executive Blake Solly last week after Eddie Jones expressed interest in Rabbitohs captain Cameron Murray, comparing Murray’s potential impact in rugby union to that of Sonny Bill Williams.

“I’m not surprised rugby have shown an interest in him,” Solly told The Sydney Morning Herald. “But the fact is he’s contracted until the end of 2025, and we’d love him to stay longer. In truth, rugby really needs to get its own house in order.

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“It continues to lose talented kids to rugby league every year, it has financial challenges, and it will need more than some NRL signings to solve their many problems.”

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Those comments were met with a comedic rebuttal by RA chairman Hamish McLennan, who acknowledged the financial hole of $25 million that Rugby Australia currently face before likening Solly’s comments to “being hit with a wet lettuce”.

“That’s not much of a sledge. It’s like being hit with a wet lettuce. Why is he being so sensitive? And we make no apologies for showing an interest in Cam Murray. He grew up playing rugby union. It’s a free market.”

The back and forth continues to keep rugby union in the spotlight, an outcome often linked to Eddie Jones. Marinos went on to defend the Wallabies coach’s public hunt for new talent.

“Each coach has their different methods and he has obviously drawn back to what worked in the past, and he has been vocal about it.

“There are good rugby union players that have chosen a different path and he is perfectly entitled to highlight that, and highlight that they’re good players. It is not devaluing the importance of the players who are currently in the system, because they’re the ones who are wearing the jersey and delivering.”

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