Wallabies lock Izack Rodda and two other players who declined to accept pay cuts for the duration of the COVID-19 shutdown have terminated their contracts with Rugby Australia (RA) and Queensland Rugby Union (QRU), their manager said yesterday.
Rodda, fly-half Isaac Lucas and lock Harry Hockings, who all play Super Rugby for the Queensland Reds, were “stood down” by the QRU on Monday after refusing to accept salary reductions or to sign up to the government’s JobKeeper program.
Their manager, Anthony Picone, said in a statement that the QRU had “no legal basis to issue the standdown notice.”
“This is their livelihood,” Picone added. “It is only reasonable that talented players want to secure stable employment during these times. Given the parlous state of rugby in Australia and Queensland, we offered the [QRU] the opportunity to deal with these matters in private and confidentially. This offer was rejected.”
The reductions of up to 60 percent were agreed on by the players union to help cut costs while no professional rugby is possible as long as restrictions are in place to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It would be wise for the Reds and RA to maintain amicable relationships with these players,” Picone added. “The future is uncertain, but we should always have as many players in the tent as possible. South Africa have jumped the gun on us in this space and they won the World Cup with a unified squad selected from all around the world.”
Local media reported that the QRU have refused to speak with Picone because of his role in the departure of Samu Kerevi to a Japanese club last year, a move that makes the Test center ineligible to play for the Wallabies under existing RA rules.
Sam Whitelock would have “loved” to have been given the chance to skipper the All Blacks again, but the veteran of 117 Tests has said that he would do everything he can to help Sam Cane in the role, after the loose forward was handed the arm band by new coach Ian Foster.
Whitelock, who has led the side six times, had been expected to succeed Kieran Read after the No. 8 retired from Tests following last year’s Rugby World Cup, but Foster opted for Cane, 28, as his new captain earlier this month.
“I would have loved to have had the opportunity,” Whitelock told reporters on a conference call yesterday. “I’ve had a bit of a taste of it in previous years and I would have liked to have had [another] go. But I know how much goes into it and that you don’t need the captain’s arm band to help people out and make a difference, and Sam is going to need all the help and support he can get. I’m keen to help him out where I can.”
Whitelock has returned to New Zealand to rejoin the Canterbury Crusaders after his playing sabbatical with the Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan was cut short when the competition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the Super Rugby season was postponed in the middle of March after seven weeks of matches, the five New Zealand sides are to play a 10-week domestic competition from June 13.
“It is going to be challenging... There are going to be some sore bodies and some big clashes,” the 31-year-old lock said of the competition. “But I think that’s what the public want... They want to be entertained and I think that is what everyone is after.”
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