There has been a breakthrough in stalled talks between Rugby Australia (RA) and players regarding the COVID-19 shutdown, with the quarrelling parties to meet on Sunday as speculation swirls about the future of the governing body’s CEO Raelene Castle.
There are mixed reports about just how much the RA board is currently agitating for change and whether embattled chief executive Castle could soon be sacked, with News Corp Australia suggesting former Wallabies skipper Phil Kearns is set to take her place.
Castle has faced a series of challenges since her appointment in 2017, most notably the Israel Folau saga, but nothing compares to the health crisis that has halted all sport at every level in Australia.
Earlier this week, some 75 per cent of RA’s non-player workforce were stood down and the governing body announced a $9.4 million loss.
RA has also been publicly butting heads with the Rugby Union Players’ Association (RUPA) regarding pay cuts for player s, but there were two key developments on Saturday.
RUPA chief executive Justin Harrison released a statement in the morning welcoming the receipt of “the financial information first requested from Rugby Australia almost a month ago”.
Castle and RA chairman Paul McLean then confirmed they will meet with RUPA on Sunday at 2pm, noting “we look forward to reaching a fair and reasonable agreement”.
Harrison was buoyed by the prospect of “meaningful discussion”, but cautioned against hopes of an speedy resolution.
“Given neither party has yet tabled any position relating to player salaries in the context of the COVID-19 crisis we need to be realistic as to the problems (still) to be solved,” Harrison said.
“And the time (that is) necessary to deal with complex issues and have proper consultation with players.
“If other major codes are a guide, a week or weeks is not an unrealistic time-frame to reach a solution.
“RUPA has at all times been ready to enter proper negotiations as soon as transparent financial information was provided.”
Harrison added that players are “keenly aware of the role they need to play in leading the code to a sustainable future”.
Former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was among those calling for more transparency from his former employer, while Melbourne Rebels captain Dane Haylett-Petty expressed frustration and disappointment with the stalemate.
“We care about the game as much as anyone else,” the Rebels and Wallabies outside back told AAP.
“We’ve been left out of the loop and left out of the decision-making process to date … hopefully that’s changing.
“I felt like the AFL the very next day went straight to their players to sit down and talk about where they are at and how we’re going to fix it … (for rugby) it’s been probably over a month now.”
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