Why five-year rugby deals are id­iocy

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - ALAN JONES

It would be a bit self-in­dul­gent to be­lieve that any­one in Rugby Aus­tralia is tak­ing any no­tice of what has been said in this col­umn now for some months.

But I’ll tell you some­thing, the read­ers and rugby loy­al­ists are.

It is not gild­ing the lily to say that the grass­roots peo­ple are up in arms.

Last week, Jake wrote “I strongly agree with you, Alan … can any­one con­vince Clyne to fol­low the hon­ourable ex­am­ple of cricket? Fat chance, I would say.”

Alana wrote “Jones is forth­right but cor­rect. The game’s man­age­ment struc­ture and team is an em­bar­rass­ment. It needs a com­plete re­view, re­struc­ture and re­fo­cus. As part of this process, the Board and CEO have to go and be re­placed by peo­ple with a proven track record in the game. The state-based struc­ture must be re­placed with a cen­tralised ad­min­is­tra­tion and struc­ture along the lines of the New Zealand model.”

There were end­less com­ments of a sim­i­lar na­ture. Even the Fair­fax press is now, be­grudg­ingly, con­ced­ing that some­thing has to give. Too many jour­nal­ists seem apol­o­gists for an ut­terly dis­cred­ited rugby ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Now we learn that there has been a re­view into rugby which has never been re­vealed. Ac­cord­ing to the Fair­fax press, it “was al­ways in­tended to be con­fi­den­tial”.

You get the drift. It has been kept a se­cret. But don’t worry! The con­clu­sions were fed into the ARU’s five-year strate­gic re­view!!

The same out­fit re­spon­si­ble for the re­view into cricket con­ducted the re­view into rugby — Si­mon Longstaff of the Ethics Cen­tre.

Rugby sup­port­ers, al­ready in a lather over our rapid de­cline, will be alarmed to know that this re­view was sub­mit­ted, ap­par­ently, in July 2015. Just like cricket, rugby wanted to keep its re­view a se­cret. But just when you think it can’t get any worse in rugby, it does.

Rae­lene Cas­tle has now been mak­ing a lot of noise about sign­ing up play­ers on five-year con­tracts. I can’t think of a dumber pro­posal. Are we so well-en­dowed that we can af­ford this id­iocy? Why wouldn’t the play­ers be lin­ing up to col­lect bo­nanza deals? Five-year deals. Noth­ing could be more lu­di­crous in Test match rugby.

Com­mon sense would tell you that play­ers in their last sea­son of a cur­rent con­tract play very well be­cause they want to have the con­tract re­newed. That’s hu­man na­ture. By con­trast, play­ers on long-term deals of­ten lose mo­ti­va­tion.

Does it mat­ter? The money keeps rolling in. Has any­one asked Sean McMa­hon why he prefers to play in Ja­pan rather than have a crack at mak­ing the Wal­la­bies start­ing team? If you were Sean McMa­hon, would you

hang around be­hind Michael Hooper and David Po­cock?

Both of these play­ers are on long-term deals. The mes­sage to play­ers like Sean McMa­hon is loud and clear. We don’t need you.

Rugby play­ers will snap your hand off if you of­fer them a fiveyear deal. They know the in­jury stats and most of them want se­cu­rity.

When they learn that a naive, or should that be in­com­pe­tent, rugby ad­min­is­tra­tion wants to lock them up and lock out the big French clubs, the player agents know they can ask any price they want.

What in­cen­tive is there for a player if he’s guar­an­teed a for­tune re­gard­less of his form or his fit­ness? Right now, all the player agents in the coun­try are lick­ing their lips as Rugby Aus­tralia throw around multi-year deals as if there’s no to­mor­row.

Cas­tle has form in this space. At the Can­ter­bury rugby league club, she was part of the risky strat­egy of back-end­ing con­tracts. Back-end­ing means a player takes a higher per cent of the over­all pack­age at the back end of the con­tract.

In the NRL, it’s a strat­egy to get qual­ity play­ers un­der the salary cap. But the prob­lem is these de­layed con­tracts catch man­age­ment out. They end up pay­ing too much for play­ers in their de­cline.

In many ways, with these fiveyear deals, Cas­tle is do­ing at Rugby Aus­tralia what she did at Can­ter­bury.

There is no way Is­rael Fo­lau at 34 will be worth the same as he is worth at 29 but he’ll be paid the same pay, ap­par­ently more than $1.5 mil­lion a sea­son.

These deals are go­ing to bite an in­creas­ingly fi­nan­cially im­pov­er­ished Rugby Aus­tralia in the back­side.

When Michael Cheika is gone, is there any guar­an­tee Michael Hooper will be se­lected at seven for the Wal­la­bies? But he is be­ing paid $1.3 mil­lion a sea­son for the next five years, if you are to be­lieve the re­ports, re­gard­less of form, fit­ness or se­lec­tion pol­icy.

Just on form and se­lec­tion, Adam Ash­ley-Cooper is one of the finest young men ever to wear green and gold. But what are we say­ing to young Aus­tralian tal­ent when Ash­ley-Cooper is re­called into the Wal­laby squad?

My ad­vice is sim­ple. Have faith in our young play­ers. They won’t let you down.

And now to the week­end and Wales. We will have our hands full in Cardiff even though our re­cent record over Wales is very good.

There is no doubt that War­ren Gat­land will want to strike a psy­cho­log­i­cal blow in the lead-up to the World Cup. We have Wales and Fiji in our pool next year.

Wales had a big win over Scot­land last Satur­day. It will be a chal­lenge for the Wal­laby at­tack. It has been patchy, scor­ing only two tries per match so far this sea­son. But Aus­tralia loves play­ing at Cardiff. Hope­fully that will en­able us to lift.

But I come back to that rot­ten li­ne­out, our achilles heel. We are still se­lect­ing two “short­ies” in the back­row. It wor­ries the hell out of me. And what about dis­ci­pline?

We have only won one penalty count out of ten so far this sea­son. If we are as ill-dis­ci­plined as that against Wales, Leigh Half­penny will kick us to death.

It is Mel­bourne Cup week. A young­ster won the Mel­bourne Cup. There’s a les­son there in all sport. Back the young­sters.

They might just sur­prise you.

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