Izack Rodda, Isaac Lucas and Harry Hockings have ended their contracts with the Queensland Reds and Australian rugby.
The trio, who were stood down by the QRU on Monday for refusing to accept the RUPA-agreed pay cuts for the rest of the season and apply for the Federal Government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy, have now terminated their contracts with the QRU and Rugby Australia.
Rugby Australia and the players’ union settled on a 60 per cent pay cut in April to last until the end of September or, if it comes earlier, a resumption in Super Rugby.
Anthony Picone’s Newstar Sports organisation, which manages all three players, issued a statement on Friday morning accusing the QRU of “repudiatory conduct”. The statement claimed the QRU had no legal right to stand Rodda, Lucas and Hockings down and that the governing body had been given plenty of time to reverse the decision.
Picone has something of a chequered history with the QRU after Samu Kerevi, another of his clients, left the Reds and Australian rugby last year, however none of the other Australian-based players under his management decided to reject the pay cut for the rest of the season.
The players’ next steps are uncertain. There was much speculation after they were stood down on Monday that a move to an overseas club would follow – and Picone saying “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.” would indicate that’s a genuine option.
However, with the incredible uncertainty around global sport right now, it would be unusual for Rodda, Lucas and Hockings to sign for a British or French club – two nations hit far harder by COVID-19 than Australia – after Picone said “It is only reasonable that talented players want to secure stable employment during these times”.
Both Rodda and Lucas were on long-term deals with Rugby AU and the Reds, and while Hockings’ contract was due to expire at the end of 2020, he was part of the Wallabies’ long-term plans.
Reports in the last couple of days indicated rival Australian clubs could be a destination, with Rodda in particular linked to the Brumbies and Waratahs after reportedly falling out with Reds coach Brad Thorn. But tearing up their Rugby AU contracts will complicate those matters – not to mention the lingering issue of whether to accept the pay cut would still come into the equation.
Waratahs coach Rob Penney also threw doubt over any of the players moving south.
“It’s a really unfortunate situation up there, the landscape’s changing for everybody across all sports,” Penney said on Thursday.
“So the last thing you’d want to be seen to be doing is being the vulture hanging around a situation like that.
“Obviously they are very important to Australian rugby.”