Mary’s Wonder Women: The Wallaroos get their pay day

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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    During 2016 I wrote at least one article a week about women’s sport. That’s at least 52 articles covering the talents and successes of women across a number of sports including rugby league, rugby union, AFL, football, basketball, netball, softball and cricket.

    This year I make the same commitment. I will continue to write about women in sport and to celebrate their achievements.

    But I am also going to make another commitment to all of you this year.

    Recently I was asked what I hope for women in sport in the future.

    Of course I hope for professional competitions, increased coverage and pay which appropriately reflects the time and commitment of the women participating, but what I hope for the most is that we slowly move towards a world where women’s sport is analysed and critiqued in the same way as men’s sport.

    I first became aware of this difference last year when someone asked me who my favourite Australian Jillaroos player was. My initial inclination was to say I liked them all, because we are still not at a point in time where women in sport are celebrated in a similar way to men. I felt like it wasn’t fair for me to play favourites and that I should equally support every player on the team.

    Jillaroos

    (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

    When I thought about my initial inclination though, I found it problematic. I have several favourite players in the men’s teams that I support, so why should it be any different for women? (For the record, my favourite Jillaroos player is Kezie Apps).

    For many women in sport advocates, the tendency is to be overly positive because of the lack of coverage. If I am going to contribute to the conversation I try to contribute in a way that celebrates rather than denigrates.

    Additionally, because in the past there has been so little coverage, I feel that it is my job to share what is going in the women’s sport space to start with. Only when this is covered appropriately does critique and more hard-hitting analysis becomes easier to do.

    But in insightful sports commentary and journalism there should be room for reporting and analysis.

    This year I want to make an effort to be more inquisitive and more critical. To be brave enough to ask questions and try to find out why Rachael Haynes was chosen to captain the Australian Women’s Cricket Team and not vice-captain Alex Blackwell or why Maddie Studdon wasn’t picked as starting halfback for the Australian Jillaroos in the Rugby League World Cup.

    These are questions that I often debate with my friends, but issues that I rarely turn into written pieces.

    When journalists feel comfortable enough to apply the same levels of criticism and attention to women in sport as currently happens for men in sport, then I think we will be one step closer to fairer and more accurate sports reporting.

    Rugby union
    In case you missed it, this week Rugby Australia announced a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with several positive announcements in relation to the women’s game.

    This is the first time that the CBA has applied to the Wallabies, Wallaroos, Super Rugby and Aussie 7s players.

    Katrina Barker in action against for Australia against England.

    (ARU Media)

    The CBA guarantees that men and women who play rugby sevens share the same base pay as men playing Super Rugby. The entry level salary of $44,500 will remain in place until the expiry of the current broadcast deal in 2020.

    A new pregnancy policy has also been built into the agreement – a space which many sports are now beginning to think about and explore. This policy is timely, particularly considering that Aussie 7s player Nicole Beck returned to rugby sevens in August for the AON University Sevens in St Lucia following the birth of her second daughter. Interestingly enough when she returned, she was put in the ‘rehab’ training group.

    Players returning after the birth of a child is something plenty of sports are still grappling with – even netball (which is a sport predominantly played by women). Super Netball only introduced a parental care policy early in 2017 so it is a positive step for rugby to be considering this and including appropriate provisions in the CBA.

    The biggest news of all is that finally, the Wallaroos will be paid for the first time, receiving match payments for any Test they play. This has been a long time coming and is wonderful recognition for women that represent Australia in rugby at an elite level.

    Prior to this CBA the Wallaroos had been considered amateur and did not receive match payments. But remember, that amateur and professional status has nothing to do with the level or skill which the athlete competes at – rather it reflects whether they are paid or not. So the Wallaroos were considered amateur because they were not paid, rather than them not being paid because they were amateur athletes.

    The very obvious gap from this CBA is the women who will be competing in the Super W which is set to launch this April. Rugby Australia has said that these women will not be paid – which I think is the wrong decision and potentially detrimental to the new competition.

    I hope that by the next time the CBA is negotiated, the players competing in the Super W will also be appropriately compensated for their time and effort. But for now, I’m celebrating the fact that our Wallaroos are finally being paid to compete in Tests – it’s long overdue.

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.

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    The Crowd Says (35)

    • January 11th 2018 @ 7:14am
      Sherry said | January 11th 2018 @ 7:14am | ! Report

      I’m on your side, Mary. Way to go girls. Big tourney 26 – 28th of this month in Sydney.
      The teams –
      Australia
      Canada
      England
      Fiji
      France

      Ireland
      New Zealand
      Russia
      Spain
      United States
      Japan

      • Columnist

        January 11th 2018 @ 9:43am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | January 11th 2018 @ 9:43am | ! Report

        Love it, Sherry! Will you be there?

        • January 12th 2018 @ 7:55am
          loosehead said | January 12th 2018 @ 7:55am | ! Report

          Where is this tourney being held?

      • January 11th 2018 @ 1:55pm
        Slat said | January 11th 2018 @ 1:55pm | ! Report

        What do you estimate to be the crowd numbers for this only women comp? Will the gate takings be enough to pay the players refs and support staff bearing in mind the amount the ARU will have to put in.

      • January 13th 2018 @ 10:40am
        ClassAct said | January 13th 2018 @ 10:40am | ! Report

        Way to go Girls !

        Now all we need to do is remove tackling and rucking etc from the women’s game. The last thing we want is butch and bruised young ladies waking up with a smashed nose and premature dimensia.

        A faster more athletic game is a safer and more appropriate activity. Aspiring to be the next Elysse Perry or Anna Kournikova should be the goal of our future generations

    • Roar Guru

      January 11th 2018 @ 8:39am
      PeterK said | January 11th 2018 @ 8:39am | ! Report

      So all club players at all levels should be paid as well , for their time and effort!

      No.

      The fact is pay has to be tied to the revenue that team / competition brings in (or expected to bring in after an initial building phase).

      Additionally the Wallaroos players play a lot fewer intls per year and don’t play the equivalent of super rugby games.
      The average skill level and athleticism of the Wallaroos is way behind the average Wallaby or women’s 7’s player.

      So the level of the average Super W player who is not a wallaroo is even lower. I would say the level of effort and time of 1st grade shute shield / hospital cup player is at least as high yet no one is saying they should be paid. No doubt their skill and athleticism is higher.

      So lets call it for what it is.

      Not due to time, effort or skill nor reflective of revenue they bring in should the Super W women get paid.
      No purely to grow the game , for the future potential.
      Nothing wrong with that, and that is fair enough, you need to put in money to make money.
      But at least be more honest in the appraisal of where they are at.

      • January 11th 2018 @ 10:00am
        Kathryn said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:00am | ! Report

        Peter,
        It’s chicken and egg though. If investments are not made in women’s sport, including allowing women to be semi or full professional, then the quality of their game won’t improve.

        You reference the women’s 7s team as a benchmark for Wallaroos to aspire to, and this is true. But that’s the Pearls have been a professional squad for the last 4-5 years (even though the revenue they brought in at the start of that period would have been negligble), and the absolute step-change in the quality of their performances shows that investment in professionalism pays off.

        You are putting women’s sport in a no-win position. No money for them until they improve quality commensurate with professional teams, but without that money they will never get to that level.

        • Roar Guru

          January 11th 2018 @ 10:55am
          PeterK said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:55am | ! Report

          No.

          I allowed for future growth / projected revenue.

          or expected to bring in after an initial building phase.

          The womens 7’s were being paid ahead of revenue or growth due to the expectation of growth , especially with olympics in mind.

          The projected growth or revenue from womens W can’t be that high IMO.

          The intl level Wallaroos has little market profile, or revenue or interest.

          NRC which is semi pro , of a much higher standard than Wallaroos let alone the new Super W struggles for any interest or profile (as does Super rugby). So having a high level of skill does not equate to revenue anyway.

          The best female backs will gravitate more to 7’s anyway than super w, and be in the national 7’s comp.

          It is hard to justify payments on the future growth / revenue of Super W even if had highly skilled players.

          That is why it is fair to create the comp and see how much interest by players, fans and media there actually is. Sure if the RA could afford it they should pay them 5k each for expenses and IMO should have reduced the CBA agreement money to all the other men and women by 150k (in total) to pay for it.

        • January 13th 2018 @ 8:34pm
          Train Without A Station said | January 13th 2018 @ 8:34pm | ! Report

          Is it chicken and the egg?

          Look at rugby.

          Revenue came first, then professionalism.

    • Columnist

      January 11th 2018 @ 9:51am
      Mary Konstantopoulos said | January 11th 2018 @ 9:51am | ! Report

      ‘The fact is pay has to be tied to the revenue that team / competition brings in (or expected to bring in after an initial building phase).’

      We fundamentally disagree on this Peter. I think it is completely unreasonable for there to be an expectation of media commitments, training during work hours and travel for no pay. It is unfair and unreasonable. In every other professional sports league women are being paid. If rugby do not rectify this in the Super W then they will also be left behind.

      This is also incorrect because the Aussie 7s teams have been paid professionally for a couple of years. They did this to improve the talent pool and to be prepared for the Olympics. They certainly weren’t bringing in revenue when they first started.

      ‘Additionally the Wallaroos players play a lot fewer intls per year and don’t play the equivalent of super rugby games.’

      Because they don’t get the opportunity. Prior to last year it had been several years in between Tests. Despite the support of Josephine Sukkar and push from women in rugby, it’s clear that the ARU weren’t paying much attention. If you want the skill and athleticism to increase and improve, then give them more opportunity to play and pay them appropriately so they can treat the sport just as any other professional would.

      And it is absolutely due to time that these women should be paid. If they need to take time away from their jobs to play in this competition then they should be paid.

      • January 11th 2018 @ 10:17am
        Council said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:17am | ! Report

        I’m with PeterK on this. You want them to be paid because men are, so the women should be too.

        Never mind the fact that it is the men’s game which brings in almost all the revenue.

        It’s great that the 7s girls and Wallaroos are now revieving pay for test and tournaments. But you would argue that they help to being in revenue to help pay for their salary.

        REA does have to cough up and pay for a Super W comp, though untill it starts to bring in revenue it is entirely fanciful to consider paying the players.

        I’m guessing that the uniforms, coaching, training, travel and hotel costs will be paid for by the comp which is the bare minimum.

        Once the comp is established and is advertised and promoted and televised then it can be tied into a TV agreement with the male game or the NRC even allowing them to bring in some money and then get paid.

        • January 12th 2018 @ 8:08pm
          Train Without A Station said | January 12th 2018 @ 8:08pm | ! Report

          Yeah where I fundamentall disagree with Mary’s view is even with what she says she hopes women’s sport to achieve, revenue is not part of it.

          Mary I must ask, where do you expect the money to come from?

          In the case of rugby, the men’s game is barely scraping by.

        • January 14th 2018 @ 1:40pm
          Rugger said | January 14th 2018 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

          Woohoo – Women’s rugby 💃🏻🏉 is about to hit our TV screens 🍾🎉

          They’ll steal funds generated by the men’s game to kickstart a comp no one wants to watch. With a skill and power level inferior to the standard of a men’s game which at present, is an inferior level to what fans will accept.

          And people wonder why Trump was voted President 😳🤔🤐

      • Roar Guru

        January 11th 2018 @ 10:41am
        PeterK said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:41am | ! Report

        Mary – I specifically noted or expected to bring in after an initial building phase.
        This means based on projections what you expect the revenue / growth to be and pay them now during the building stage based on that. This covers the case of womens 7’s who were paid in anticipation of olympics etc. Notice as their performance and profile goes up their pay does as well as it should be.

        Why not address the points that show your inconsistency on why they should be paid?

        You stated players should be paid due to the effort and time yet when shown Wallaroos actual play a lot less, also have less media engagements BTW, you then change tack and say that is the fault of the ARU.

        So you contradict your self , where in fact they spend a lot less time / effort since they play a lot less you still want them paid. You haven’t answered the question why shute shield players shouldn’t be paid as well since they play more, have more effort and more skill? Is it because they are men?

        So women should be paid just because they are women is what you are actually saying for less effort, and time.

        If projected future revenue or growth of the game substantiated they should be paid for super w then yes they should. Just like womens 7’s they had to play a season or 2 to indicate what the commercial / public interest really was. Hence they got paid AFTER initially not being paid.

        I do agree though that not paying anything to super w players will hinder their competition.
        Just paying them 5k or whatever will make it easier to attract better players. That said the skilled fast players are already trying to get into the women’s sevens team and 7’s comps. That has a higher profile and established base so the best backs will be in womens sevens (note some play for the wallaroos already).

        So in reality it will attract better bigger / slower players i.e better forwards to womens w.

        • January 11th 2018 @ 3:06pm
          Joey said | January 11th 2018 @ 3:06pm | ! Report

          “So women should be paid just because they are women is what you are actually saying for less effort, and time”

          Pretty much sums up the entire reasoning behind the pay gap myth

      • January 12th 2018 @ 8:09pm
        Train Without A Station said | January 12th 2018 @ 8:09pm | ! Report

        Sorry Mary, in all men’s sports this is driven by revenue, not time commitment.

        That’s why there are a number of Olympic sports that are basically amateur.

      • January 14th 2018 @ 6:40pm
        Slat said | January 14th 2018 @ 6:40pm | ! Report

        Before professional players and rugby and before women had organised teams the men from all grades had to balance jobs, career ‘s, family and friends. They managed and were only paid when they were chosen for national honours. They even had their photos taken and were chosen to speak to the media. Rugby is about the love of the game😎

    • January 11th 2018 @ 10:45am
      chasmac said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:45am | ! Report

      Interesting.
      Men’s Rugby has been fighting for market share with AFL and League and Soccer.
      There is a line of thought that rugby (and league) are too rough for little johnny to play.
      Club rugby on a Saturday is not the family affair it used to be.
      However, if the women’s teams are getting paid to play, one would think that there will be an increase in women player numbers.
      This could / should help indirectly in getting juniors to sign up as they follow the example set by their mothers.
      Should change the feel at Saturday club matches as well.
      Of course it will all hinge on how the implementation takes place.
      Good initiative……. hopefully.

      • Roar Guru

        January 11th 2018 @ 10:56am
        PeterK said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:56am | ! Report

        agree

        for the future growth of the game more women playing is a great thing

    • January 11th 2018 @ 1:48pm
      Slat said | January 11th 2018 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

      I would cross the road to watch a women’s 7 competition as they can almost fill the stadium, they have skill and speed. I would not watch a women’s 15 aside game as I believe their game is slow and cumbersome and they struggle to half fill the stadium, so why are they treated equally to the wallabies who when playing poorly can still fill a stadium anywhere in the world. When the female equivalent can put bums on seats and who have Falau type talent then they would be worth the ticket and sponsorship.

      • January 11th 2018 @ 5:48pm
        Dan54 said | January 11th 2018 @ 5:48pm | ! Report

        Slat as a grumpy old fella who used to think the only women’s rugby comp that should be counted was who makes best aftermatch feed for the players, even I have to disagree with you, I go to club rugby every week during season, and even I will say that the games I have seen the women play the last couple of years has been a huge improvement. I think the time has come to recognise that if we want women comps at super level , and I think most think it a good idea, well I think the players have to have some compensation in monetary terms. You know sometimes it just not about the crowd they bring in (because if it was there would be very few state cricket players in Aus), but also how much value the sports gets in raising the profile of the sport!

        • January 11th 2018 @ 9:18pm
          Slat said | January 11th 2018 @ 9:18pm | ! Report

          Exactly you can only raise the interest by having super stars on the field every week. Australian rugby is being overtaken by the other major football codes. Every day they mention these codes, rugby is not mentioned in the same breath. We need to strengthen the games we have super rugby and the wallabies, sevens rugby is only getting the recognition it deserves and it’s only been recent because the women have skill for that game. The men need to start winning and it has to be Day in day out.

    • Roar Rookie

      January 11th 2018 @ 2:50pm
      piru said | January 11th 2018 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

      Nice one Mary

      if you’re looking for topics, GridironWest is approaching the end of it’s first women’s comp season (proper gridiron, not the lingerie carry on).

      • Columnist

        January 11th 2018 @ 3:14pm
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | January 11th 2018 @ 3:14pm | ! Report

        Cool! Thanks Piru! If you have any info or know anyone I should contact, feel free to drop me a line at ladieswholeague@gmail.com

        • January 12th 2018 @ 11:57am
          Council said | January 12th 2018 @ 11:57am | ! Report

          Hey Mary, I know a friend who plays in the Ladies league, I’ve sent her a message with your email saying if she or anyone she knows would wanna have a chat to give you a buzz.

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