Queensland Reds trio Izack Rodda, Harry Hockings and Isaac Lucas have sensationally ended their stand-off with Rugby Australia by terminating their contracts.
The group had refused to take pay cuts of an average 60 per cent that their Australian Super Rugby counterparts accepted, prompting the Reds to stand them down ahead of Monday’s return to training.
On Friday the players’ agent Anthony Picone argued the Reds had no legal grounds to do so, in confirming the termination of their RA and Queensland Rugby Union contracts.
That claim comes despite RA, through director of rugby Scott Johnson, supporting QRU chief executive David Hanham’s decision earlier this week.
Rodda was reportedly at odds with Reds coach Brad Thorn and seeking a move to a rival Australian team, while Lucas and Hockings were both said to be assessing their options overseas.
Johnson was keen to mediate and hoped a resolution could be reached to ensure the trio remained at the Reds, or at least in Australian rugby, given all three were part of the Wallabies’ future plans.
Those hopes appear to be fading fast though, with Picone in a statement labelling the QRU’s actions “repudiatory conduct” that forced his hand when the organisation failed to retreat this week.
The statement said the players had arrived at their decisions because of the “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”.
“This is their livelihood. It is only reasonable that talented players want to secure stable employment during these times,” Picone said.
Rodda (23), who has 25 Test caps, and Lucas (21) were both contracted until 2023 while Hockings (21) was off contract but in talks for an extension.
Picone has long ruffled feathers at the Reds, last year arranging a move to Japan for captain Samu Kerevi while also facilitating the exits of Will Genia and Liam Gill.
The NewStar Sports agent said he was disappointed this situation had played out publicly and called for RA’s new chairman Hamish McLennan and interim chief executive Rob Clarke to adopt a “more nuanced approach to player relationships and player movement”.
“It would be wise for the Reds and RA to maintain amicable relationships with these players,” he said.
“The future is uncertain, but we should always have as many players in the tent as possible.”
The trio were the only players of the 192 Australian Super Rugby professionals to baulk at the salary hits that will be revised once a schedule and broadcast deal is finalised for the truncated competition due to begin in July.
The QRU and RA were contacted for comment.
– Murray Wetzel
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now