Foreign raiders move on cut-price Wallabies
Foreign raiders have begun approaching our top rugby stars about defecting next year, believing the financial strain on Rugby Australia will see a mass of players walking out on contracts.
The Daily Telegraph is aware of six Wallabies players that have been contacted in the past two days by overseas clubs.
Worryingly, some of Australia's best young stars are also in the crosshairs of opportunistic clubs who sense a radical shift in the rugby landscape.
Negotiations for a pay-cut for the nation's 192 professional players are on hold until Saturday, after a Rugby Australia official supposed to be on a video conference with the Rugby Union Players' Association succumbed to food poisoning on Thursday.
When the talks resume this weekend, a key part of RUPA's message will be that the pay-cuts will be fixed for six months, and any attempt to extend the wage shortfall or amend contracts will result in players seeking escape clauses or having their full terms paid.
There is growing frustration among the playing group over the dire financial situation rugby finds itself in.
RA's request that they accept a 65 per cent cut for six months, so RA can save $11.7 million, was received frostily given the organisation's executive team have only taken a 30 per cent cut for three months.
Embattled RA chief executive Raelene Castle accepted a 50 per cent cut to her $840,000 annual wage, but that is to be assessed monthly.
Castle's handling of failed broadcast negotiations and now the player pay-cut dispute has increased pressure on her, with several big-name rugby identities pushing for her removal.
She must get a deal with the players signed off by Saturday, or at least reach a tentative agreement, in order to prevent the galling prospect of Super Rugby franchises standing down their rosters with monthly pay to be processed on Wednesday.
The four franchises are facing insolvency without gate-takings from games due to COVID-19, and cannot afford to pay the $400,000 in player wage bills due next week.
If no deal is reached by early next week, the clubs will likely stand down their players, and then retrospectively pay back what's owed when RA and RUPA reach the pay-cut agreement.
However, it's understood both parties will work hard to find a resolution by Saturday.
The players, while annoyed by the protracted process of these discussions, understand they must sacrifice money to save the game.
But the trust in those administering the game is fading.
Many do not see RA being able to salvage a broadcast deal for 2021-25 that can sustain their big salaries, with several stars having signed long-term deals already.
And that is why, as more foreign clubs come knocking, Australia's best talent will be opening the door.
Originally published as Foreign raiders move on cut-price Wallabies