Why five-year rugby deals are idiocy
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.