New contracting regime annoys rugby stars

By Jim Morton,

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    Wallabies flanker Scott Higginbotham has voiced his frustration at Australian rugby’s new contracting regime which has been complicated by the cloud over a proposed Super Rugby salary cap.

    While fellow Test back-rower Wycliff Palu knocked back a lucrative Japanese offer on Monday to re-sign with the Australian Rugby Union, Higginbotham is annoyed by a process which is leaving more players in limbo.

    Despite playing in a 15-team competition where 10 foreign teams aren’t restricted by a salary cap, Australia’s Super Rugby teams have been told they must adhere to the equalisation measure once a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is finalised.

    But negotiations between the ARU and the Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA) over the CBA have hit a major speedbump and the cap amount remains undetermined.

    RUPA wants to see a cap of $4.8 million but if the two bodies don’t agree on the ever-lingering CBA, the figure will stand at $4.1 million in 2013 and reduce to $3.9 million in 2014.

    However if the CBA, first ratified in 2004, rolls over, a cap technically can’t be enforced, while it also won’t apply to the privately-owned Melbourne Rebels.

    In a bid to rein in its spending, the Australian Rugby Union has also decentralised its contracting system with less players given national top-up deals.

    Top-up offers are now made after players negotiate with the provinces first, whereas in the past it was the reverse where negotiations started at a national level and Super Rugby contracts were even across the board, apart from third-party deals.

    Now top-line players are agreeing to offers from their province on the proviso they receive the top-up they expect from the ARU, prompting players to then look overseas or interstate when it’s not forthcoming.

    That’s the situation that Higginbotham, among others, has been left in following positive discussions with Queensland before starting negotiations with the ARU last month.

    Although the in-form 25-year-old is now rated ahead of former Test skipper Rocky Elsom as Australia’s best No.6, he’s currently weighing up interest overseas and interstate.

    The 25-year-old admitted his frustration at the new system as he flew back into Brisbane on Monday morning following the Reds’ 15-11 loss to the Crusaders.

    “I’m definitely frustrated by it, what player’s not?” he said. “It (contract negotiations) is a tough thing to go through. It’s not the most enjoyable time, especially when you just want to do your job.

    “It’s all pretty complicated and it’s hard to sort stuff out when you don’t have a guarantee with the ARU, but it’s always tough.”

    While it was last week reported he’d agreed to a new two-year deal with Queensland, Higginbotham denied he’d agreed on anything.

    “I obviously want to stay in Queensland,” he said. “But it’s just a process of going back and forth with my manager and I’m trying to stay out of it as much as I can.”

    © AAP 2018

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    The Crowd Says (21)

    • May 8th 2012 @ 8:37am
      Blue Blood said | May 8th 2012 @ 8:37am | ! Report

      The content of his article is hard to take seriously when you are referring to Higgers as a Wallaby Star. He has some fine attributes and works well within the Reds dynamic but he is a bench player at best for the Wallabies. Until he cuts the seagull out if his playing style and introduces himself to the breakdown I find the word star is a bit rich. I however do agree that the current salary situation would be confronting and confusing to anyone involved. Especially when the it doesn’t even apply to the Rebels. Ludicrous.

      • May 8th 2012 @ 11:25am
        Justin said | May 8th 2012 @ 11:25am | ! Report

        You need to watch some rugby, have you seen him this year?

        • May 9th 2012 @ 8:47am
          Blue Blood said | May 9th 2012 @ 8:47am | ! Report

          Yes, a lot. This last game being fresh in my mind. He spent the majority of his time at least 2 players from the breakdown and too much time way out wide. The reds still have a solid backline so why is he cramping their style? Get in there Higgers. I know scoring tries and having a run aling the line is fun but your first job has to be the breakdown. I stand by my statement as someone who has watched a lot of the Reds games this year. I love watching them play.

    • May 8th 2012 @ 9:09am
      The Bone said | May 8th 2012 @ 9:09am | ! Report

      so true

    • May 8th 2012 @ 9:20am
      formeropenside said | May 8th 2012 @ 9:20am | ! Report

      Its a ridiculous situation, like everything else run by the ARU.

    • May 8th 2012 @ 11:03am
      Gary Russell-Sharam said | May 8th 2012 @ 11:03am | ! Report

      I find it strange that posters would criticize Higgers for his seagulling etc. He is essentially a number 6 and it is a requirement for a specialist number 6 to be spending some considerable time out in the backline running and defending in that area. He also spends some considerable time in the tough stuff taking the ball up and defending. I mean guys, do you want a number 6 like Elsom who can’t run out of sight on a dark night? Give me a player like “Melon” (one of our best number 6) who played like Higgers is now doing. And lets not get too critical as yet when Higgers is now only 25 years old and starting to reach his best rugby that is all ahead of him. Elsom was years older even before he went overseas to become the NH “Messiah” so guys give the kid a break and appreciate the amount of work that he does be it out wide or in tight. You only had to listen to the Kiwi commentators on Sunday raving about the amount of work Higgers gets through in a match. (it would seem that NZ rugby commentators appreciate what our players are doing more than us) I think that I would lean towards the opinion of former All Blacks than good old Aussie posters (meaning no disrespect)

      • May 8th 2012 @ 11:11am
        Ben S said | May 8th 2012 @ 11:11am | ! Report

        I don’t think Finegan spent that much time on the wing, tbh. I guess it depends on the requirements of the side really. Look at the difference between Tom Croft and Dan Lydiate, for example.

    • May 8th 2012 @ 11:16am
      redsnut said | May 8th 2012 @ 11:16am | ! Report

      Could the salary cap be challenged on a “Restraint of trade” basis?
      Plus, they want a great national team, then put the Aussie teams at a huge disadvantage to the SA and NZ teams.
      It’s no wonder so many players are lost to overseas teams

      So if the ARU want to sped less, They should make (as in sell) all the franchises into private ones like the Rebels. But that would be too simple for the stick in the muds running the ARU

      In addition to easing the “financial burden”, the money brought in would allow for a desperately needed second tier comp to be re-instated.

      • May 8th 2012 @ 11:28am
        Justin said | May 8th 2012 @ 11:28am | ! Report

        I think all caps are restraints of trade. Its essentially a gentleman’s agreement that they not be challenged in the courts.

        Something in my mid says Greg Williams of Carlton in the AFL challenged it in the 80s but they came to an agreement in the end. Very fuzzy on this but something rings a bell but dont quote me!

    • May 8th 2012 @ 11:31am
      AndyS said | May 8th 2012 @ 11:31am | ! Report

      You get used to the ARU being an utter shambles, but every time you think they can’t get worse, they do. This confusion over the “salary cap” in the middle of negotiations is colossally amateurish (I would have said astonishingly, but sadly that isn’t true). You would have thought they could have sorted all this out back end of last year, but no. Mind you, RUPA seems to be playing their part too.

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