Wallabies lock Izack Rodda and Queensland Reds teammates Isaac Lucas and Harry Hockings could be lost to Australian rugby after they were stood down for refusing to agree to the competition-wide player pay-cut proposal.
Australian Super Rugby players agreed to an average 60 per cent salary hit after the competition was paused – and Rugby Australia’s brittle financial state was revealed – because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Reds returned to training on Monday but did so without the trio, who through their shared agent Anthony Picone notified RA they would not accept the salary hit or register for the government’s JobKeeper subsidy.
Queensland Rugby Union boss David Hanham hoped, after about 10 days of back and forth, the dispute would be resolved this week.
He said until last Friday the trio – all considered key pieces in Brad Thorns’ Reds revival – had been paid in full.
That’s despite staff and players taking drastic pay cuts to lower costs, with many working long hours despite being reduced to JobKeeper payments since the competition was halted in March.
“It was a surprise and that’s where the disappointment really comes from,” Hanham said.
“You come back to our values; it’s about mateship, accountability, resilience, care for the cause.”
Rodda and Lucas are both signed on RA top-up contracts to the Reds until 2023, while Hockings is off contract this season but a player on the rise and in talks for a similar deal.
“When you put a lot of time and effort into your players at a young age there’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that go into it,” Hanham said.
“They’re good young men and clearly part of our long-term plans.”
Picone also represents former Reds captain Samu Kerevi, who left for Japan club rugby last season in another messy split that frustrated the Ballymore-based club.
RA’s director of rugby Scott Johnson was reluctant to forecast another ugly legal battle for RA and, unsure how the stand-down would impact their contracts. He hoped the trio would reconsider their stance.
“It’s three guys … the majority (of players) are on board … their next steps are their steps,” he said.
“From a rugby perspective it’d just be nice to be talking about rugby; it detracts from that and that’s what I find frustrating.
“They’re three guys of national interest; two (Lucas and Rodda) we signed long contracts (with RA and the Reds) for and the third (Hockings) we had an offer on table for extensive period.
“It’s disappointing because they’re front of mind when it comes to the bigger picture.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now