It’s been a tough couple of months for Australian rugby.
Putting aside Israel Folau’s bigotry, David Pocock’s injuries and the poor performances of Australia’s Super Rugby teams, a trove of experienced players have now announced that they will be leaving the country’s shores at the end of the season.
Things are looking particularly worrisome in the halves, with Nick Phipps, Will Genia, Quade Cooper, Bernard Foley and Christian Leali’ifano all likely to be representing sides outside of Australia in 2020.
Factor in the loss of midfielder Samu Kerevi, who is still only 24 years old, and things aren’t looking especially rosy for Rugby Australia.
Perhaps it’s the fear of losing further mid-tier and up-and-coming players that has prompted the latest move from RA – allegedly offering young prop Taniela Tupou a monster million-dollar deal over the next four years.
The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that a deal is currently being proposed to Tupou which would see him remain in Australia until the end of the 2023 World Cup in France.
Tupou would receive from 800,000 to 1 million AUD per year under the arrangement, making him the highest paid prop in Australia rugby history – as well as one of the highest paid current Wallabies.
A similar deal was believed to be offered to Kerevi – which he rejected in favour of the money on offer in Japan.
While Tupou is one of the most promising young talents in Australia, questions will be asked over whether the funds could be better used on retaining a number of youngsters. Already fellow props Scott Sio and Allan Alaalatoa are locked in for the next couple of years – there are other positions in Australia that probably need bolstering.
Tupou certainly isn’t on the same level as Kerevi when it comes to the amount of influence he can have on a game, so giving him a similar offer seems somewhat out of place. The ‘Tongan Thor’, as he has been known since his days as schoolboy playing in New Zealand, has yet to lock down a starting position with the Wallabies whereas Kerevi is almost assured of running out in the midfield come Rugby World Cup 2019.
While signing Tupou would no doubt be trumpeted as a success for Rugby Australia, the time of money the Queensland Red is being offered could have a significant impact on future contract negotiations with other players – and that may be something that RA won’t be able to afford.
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