It’s a good moment, and it hasn’t been this good for awhile, for Australian rugby. It is why this phenomenon of player sabbaticals is so troubling. We’ve seen players take late-career overseas turns to cash in or enjoy a broadening experience, but this latest case of Nick Cummins hurts on several levels – an in-prime player who also happens to be one of the great footy characters to emerge in many a moon. The Australian Rugby Union has decided to draw the sandy line on the issue, using its ultimate leverage – the chance to wear Wallaby gold. While the ARU probably doesn’t have many desirable options, this kind of hard line seems destined to end up in some kind of bad outcome. In Australia’s tight market for sporting talent, anything that will further undermine rugby’s capability to have its best and most compelling players on the field will prove lastingly problematic. And it also raises legit questions, with the new third-tier comp
and the rising prospects for sevens in the Olympics and beyond, about the sheer amount of rugby that the top players are being asked to play.