Rugby Australia interim CEO Rob Clarke has warned players can’t expect a “golden pot” overseas and isn’t concerned others will try to force RA’s hand, after his organisation released three Queensland Reds.
Wallabies lock Izack Rodda, fellow second-rower Harry Hockings and five-eighth Isaac Lucas decided to terminate their contracts after the QRU stood them down on Monday, when they declined to accept a reduction in pay and nominate for the Australian government’s JobKeeper subsidy.
The trio’s manager Anthony Picone said the players had arrived at their decisions because of enormous uncertainty surrounding the financial state of rugby, including the lack of a broadcast deal, and ability for contracts to be honoured into the future.”
RA and the Rugby Union Players Association recently agreed on an interim pay deal, where the players took pay cuts of an average of 60 per cent.
Clarke said on Saturday a deed release had been signed overnight.
There’s a suggestion the three players may join Japanese clubs.
But if they don’t find a new home overseas quickly, Clarke suggested they wouldn’t be able to play in Australia in the short term.
“If they wish to go overseas then that’s their decision, there’s no avenue open to them in Australia at this time,” Clarke said.
Asked if he could see a time when the trio are welcome back in Australian rugby, Clarke said “we are not looking that far ahead.”
Clarke said RA could have considered legally challenging the termination decisions, but felt releasing the players was the most prudent course of action.
“Going to court is always a last resort and it’s a brutal ending to any conflict,” he said.
“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.
“We are very disappointed because those players were part of how we saw the futu re but they have their rights and they are entitled to do what they have done.”
He isn’t expecting other players might try to jump ship and extricate themselves from a contract now a precedent had been set.
“We haven’t had any indication from RUPA, or any other players, that they are looking beyond our shores,” Clarke said.
Cash-strapped RA recently reported a $9.4 million loss, but is getting $14 million of support from World Rugby.
Clarke noted other countries were suffering financially and terminating contracts, but looking overseas wouldn’t guarantee players a larger income.
“I think therefore other options for any players thinking that this is a ticket to a golden pot, I think will be sorely disappointed,” he said.
Clarke said RA had very fruitful discussions with current broadcast partner Fox Sports about the shape of how the remainder of the year looks.
“Those discussions will continue next week and I’m confident that we will get some clarity within a week or two, given that we are trying to kick off a Super Rugby season domestically on July 3 and 4,” Clarke added.
He said negotiations were continuing with Western Force to add them to the four existing Australian Super teams and didn’t rule out Japan’s Sunwolves also participating in a competition scheduled to end on September 19.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now