BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — International lock Izack Rodda and two other Queensland Reds players who were stood down for refusing to take a pay cut during the coronavirus pandemic have terminated their contracts with Rugby Australia.
Anthony Picone, agent for all three, on Friday said the Reds had no legal grounds to stand the group down and confirmed the players were terminating their contracts.
Rodda, who has 25 test caps for Australia, had been contracted until 2023 and was a senior leader in the Reds franchise. Hockings, widely touted as a future Wallaby lock, is reportedly pursuing option overseas.
The trio were the only three Australian-based Super Rugby players to refuse pay cuts which average 60% and were negotiated by Rugby Australia and the players’ union. They were stood down Monday when the players returned to practice following a two-month interruption during the pandemic lockdown.
The Super Rugby season has been suspended since late March and Australia’s July international tests have been postponed, but a shortened domestic provincial competition is expected to launch in July.
The Australian Associated Press quoted Picone as saying the players reached 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 honored into the future”.
“This is their livelihood. It is only reasonable that talented players want to secure stable employment during these times,” Picone said in a statement.
Football players in the National Rugby League, the Australian rules Australian Football League and soccer’s A-League have accepted pay cuts while their sports have been shuttered.
“As we have outlined before, these conditions are necessary at present and allow the Queensland Rugby Union to create a financial bridge to the other side of this pandemic,” Queensland Rugby Union chief executive David Hanham said after the Reds trio was stood down on Monday. “Given the recent negotiated player-payment reduction agreement, this was not a situation the QRU had expected to face.”
Rugby Australia has been in turmoil in 2020, with turnover on the field and on the board.
Former media executive Hamish McLennan appointed last week as a director and chairman-elect in the wake of Raelene Castle’s departure as chief executive last month.
Castle had been under pressure to retain her position in the face of multiple challenges, including a damaged relationship with top players, the lack of a new broadcasting deal, Rugby Australia’s poor financial position that only deepened during the coronavirus pandemic, and a letter co-signed by 10 former Wallabies captains demanding a change of administration because the sport had “lost its way.”
The two-time World Cup-winning Wallabies have slumped to No. 7 in the international rankings since losing the 2015 World Cup final to New Zealand, and failing to reach the semifinals in Japan last year. Michael Cheika was replaced as head coach after the World Cup.
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