After several seasons where leading performers were able to secure lucrative three-year contracts, the Herald has been told the Australian Rugby Union will now be offering either one or two-year deals to the code's leading players.
The ARU has opted for shorter contracts to cut down its
exposure to players who are on long-term deals, but have become
''underperforming assets'' by either being out of form, injured or have
no possibility of becoming a Wallaby. It will also put the pressure on
numerous fringe players to continue performing.
The ARU had been concerned that for some years there were numerous
players nearing the end of their careers at provincial level who had
substantial ARU top-ups, and were commanding salaries of around $400 000
to 450 000 even though there was no likelihood of them again playing
Wallabies and Reds wing Digby Ioane could easily be the
last player to secure a long national contract, after the ARU and Reds late last year signed him to a three-year deal, so that he
did not leave for Japan, where he had been offered a seven-figure sum.
Putting even more pressure on provincial players to
perform is that the ARU recently announced it was dramatically cutting
back the number of ''top-up'' contracts it would offer per year. Four
years ago, the number of players on top-ups was 54. This year it will be
between 30 and 35, with 32 the anticipated final number.
When ARU chief executive John O'Neill revealed the
cutbacks this month, he said that having 54 players on national
contracts ''was, for a lot of reasons, too many, unsustainable, highly
impractical and too costly''.
This restriction and shorter contracts are bound to see
more Australian provincial players who are in their final seasons of
Super Rugby having to look overseas, where they are likely to get more
lucrative offers than what can provided by their province.
including several at the Waratahs, are well into negotiations or are
near to finalising deals with northern hemisphere clubs because they
realise they have little chance of securing an ARU contract.
Adding to the uncertainty is that the players must
finalise their provincial contracts before going into negotiations over
their Wallabies deals.
The Australian provinces are also awaiting final
confirmation of what their salary cap will be next season, with the most
likely scenario being $4.8 million, but at least the last $800 000 of
that must come from the province.
This was aimed at making the
Australian provinces more accountable, and working within their own
The Waratahs also may wait another week before picking
Rocky Elsom, with the selectors likely to stick with the line-up that
defeated the Force for Saturday night's match against the Rebels in
Elsom, who has not played this season, was expected to be
available this week, but only had minimal involvement in yesterday's
training session. He is expected to train this morning.
will then decide whether he will be available for the match against the
Waratahs coach Michael Foley last night appeared to be
eager to stick with the status quo. When asked if his captain would
return via the bench on Saturday, Foley said: ''That's a
possibility. But the guys who have been involved have played very well.
Unless one of those guys was carrying a niggle, or needed a rest, I
would think they would be the ones we would go with.''