With ARU incentives cut, what keeps elite players in Australia?
Australian rugby union is reducing the amount of salary top-ups offered to elite Australian players. Last year they offered 50 to our country’s best, now there are only 26.
The reduction is a result of cost-cutting to compensate for financial losses organisation-wide.
Overseas competitions, especially Japan and France, are tempting our elite players with offers they may not be able to resist if the situation stays the same in the future.
The average elite rugby player has 10, maybe 15 years at best to make the most out of his career. There is simply not enough time to turn down better offers.
The Queensland Reds nearly lost their famous fraternal duo Anthony and Saia Fainga’a last month to Japanese and French clubs. Much to Coach Ewan McKenzie’s pleasure the brothers stayed out of loyalty.
Not all of these mid-tier players will have the same attitude. Sooner or later we will see players leave their homes and play overseas.
The real question is how the Australian Rugby Union will rectify this issue, not only for the sake of the players themselves but for the spectators of the game. Rugby union in Australia has enough competition at home without threats from overseas.
Australian rugby union needs to work on behind-the scenes-issues like advertising and grassroots programs to strengthen the support of the game. More crowds mean more revenue and an overall boost in the popularity of rugby union. This way there may be a possibility that the players will be paid enough for them to stay.
Money seems to be thrown at the top end of the game rather than the bottom.
An Australian team won the Super Rugby trophy in 2011 and still we are unable to recognise our top players. Resolving this problem could prove tough. The game was more popular during our last Super Rugby win from the Brumbies in 2004.
The other big issue is how the ARU classifies an elite player: by international caps, popularity or simply ability?
We are going to see much more emphasis on selection and way more competition. Every position in the Wallabies squad can be filled by players with equal ability. It’s simply not acceptable for these bench players to go without the recognition that they deserve.
Private sponsorship could remedy these issues. Enabling players to seek private sponsorship could give them that boost and incentive to stay in Australian teams.
Finding a solution for these issues will always be difficult, but something has to be done and that lost finance must be found soon before its too late and we lose the players that we love. Until Australian rugby gives elite players what they want, the Wallabies are going to lose players overseas.