Let me tell you a story about an imaginary team of Australian rugby players who have been contracted overseas, and are therefore not eligible to be selected for the Wallabies.
1. Les Makin
2. Tolu Latu
3. Ollie Hoskins
4. Will Skelton
5. Rory Arnold
6. Jack Dempsey
8. Sean McMahon
9. Ryan Louwrens
10. Isaac Lucas
11. Taqele Naiyaravoro
12. Samu Kerevi
13. Billy Meakes
14. Luke Morahan
Name this team to show the potential talent pool in Australia to represent the Super Rugby clubs and Wallabies.
To be as realistic and objective as possible, I have avoided naming players who have already played their fair share in Australian rugby but have now moved to the other side of the world for the end of their careers.
This description includes Sekope Kepu and Scott Fardy, Scott Higginbotham and Will Genia. Kurtley Beele is another example.
It is interesting to note that many of these players signed short contracts abroad in the middle stages of their careers, including Higginbotham Cooper and Beale. They played excellent rugby both sides of this stint.
COVID-19 may temporarily stop the flow of Australian rugby players to Europe and Japan in search of lucrative playing deals, but international travel is slowly opening up again and apprehension will be replaced by fear and the Euro and the Yen.
I don’t judge players for their actions and frankly, I don’t like the idea of professional athletes being bagged from behind a computer screen.
Everybody understands the limitations of a rugby player’s prime years and their obligations to their families to make use of this time. The players need to be concerned about what the future holds for them after they retire from rugby. There are not many jobs in commentary that open up very often, so it is important to plan.
These players are human, so it’s understandable that they might find it appealing to move to another country for a longer period of time while playing rugby. This is similar to how businessmen relocate to new countries to make more money.
Rugby Australia doesn’t seem to be ignorant of the conflicting interests of every player it employs. These could be used to their advantage, however, I think.
Market forces control the distribution of talent in rugby around the globe according to demand and supply. Unfortunately, the demand for rugby products in Australia is not as high as the supply.
In fact, overseas demand outstrips the Australian population’s. Therefore, French, British, and Japanese clubs can outbid the Tahs for player contracts.
In the short-term, rugby demand will not rise. Only on-field improvements and better management will increase rugby’s popularity, raise revenue from professional fixtures, and allow our top players to stay longer in Australia.
Is it too many local players who have been lost to foreign clubs? What age must an Australian player be to sign a contract with an international club?
Australian rugby faces the challenge of maintaining and improving its domestic competition while ensuring that Wallabies players perform better. The national team might not be able to achieve the best results if it does not select its top players from overseas who may have higher-paying contracts.
It’s a slippery slope and could lead to irreparable damage to domestic competition. The game could suffer long-term damage from a decline in domestic competition.
Rugby Australia needs to rethink its contracting structure and align their interests with the players. This will help ease the financial burden of keeping the top Super Rugby players.
The new contract type would allow Wallabies, both current and fringe, to sign lucrative deals with international clubs.
This contract would also allow the player to play for Wallabies if he or she is in good form. The contract will guarantee that the player can return to their Australian club within a set time frame, usually one to two years.
The contract is open to players who have played at least six years of Australian rugby. I don’t think they need to have played for Wallabies during this period. The key thing is that they have committed to returning to their Super Rugby club within one to two years.
It is common for players to look for opportunities abroad to gain financial and personal growth. In many cases, this is more important than the Wallabies jersey.
Australian rugby should be able to help players with this desire. They can implement medium-term contracts that guarantee a player’s return to Australian rugby after one season, or sometimes two. All of this will be in the best interest for Australian rugby.
Rugby Australia will control the flow of talent from overseas by allowing players to “playing exchanges” or “playing sabbaticals”.
Rugby Australia invites top players to extend their stays at foreign clubs. This allows Rugby Australia to use the financial resources of the French and Japanese to pay the wages of its elite players.
This contract could be used to stop a promising young wallaby signing an indefinite contract abroad and allow them to sign a contract for a finite period with the promise to return home after some time to recover their mental health and rediscover their lost form.
Many players have benefited from playing abroad, such as Andrew Kellaway. Perhaps a change of scenery can be a benefit for players who want to move abroad but aren’t in the same form as Jack Dempsey. They could be guaranteed to return to Australian rugby if they sign a contract that guarantees them this.
Particularly interesting is Matt Phillip’s career. Phillip shined brightly in a Wallabies team that was lean on depth, but even more lean on wins after a poor 2020. He signed up for Pau in France to help him improve his forward play. However, he soon learned that he was looking to expand his skills overseas so he could return to Wallabies.
Similar to the Wallabies captain Michael Hooper, who left Australian rugby during its worst days due to the COVID-19 pandemic and signed with Toyota Japan for a season of the Japanese Top League. His Waratahs lost their first ever winless season.
This narrative is often perpetuated by Queenslanders. It overlooks the fact Hooper took his overseas sabbatical in this time period to reduce the financial pressures on Rugby Australia during the recession. Hooper’s loyalty and support for Australian rugby has been a major factor in his success since 2010, when he probably played more than any other player in Australia.
Both these cases show that players have chosen to time their overseas contracts in the best interest of their personal development and for the benefit of Australian rugby as a whole.
It is no surprise to me that Wallabies fans are passionate about the cause of the team and its success.
These contract guarantees allow Australian rugby to reward its top performers with short opportunities abroad. This allows them to enrich their lives and be exposed to different styles of rugby.
This system will allow Australian rugby to transform some of its Rory Arnolds Luke Morahans, Sean McMahons and Sean McMahons into Wallabies stalwarts. The players can now travel to other countries to experience different styles and cultures of rugby.
The players are rewarded for their loyalty by having a greater chance of spending the majority of their careers in Australian rugby.
While there may be some complications due to conflicts between the European competitions and the international calendar, the overall concept is achievable. Matt Phillip and Michael Hooper, both from Japan and France respectively, have returned to Wallabies this year.
This contract shifts Rugby Australia’s investment in a player, the contract from a short-term investment horizon to a medium or longer term investment.
The bigger picture is to increase the percentage of a player’s entire career that is spent in Australia.
Most players will look for opportunities abroad at some point. My proposal of contract guarantees helps players do this in the best interest of Australian rugby.
This clause would increase transparency in the contract negotiations between Rugby Australia’s players and Rugby Australia. It would also allow for the best of both the international and domestic game management. This contract will help to maintain the quality of Super Rugby squads. It will allow for control over the flow of rugby talent from Australia by timing the overseas stints of deserving players in small batches.
The Wallabies would be able to select some international players who have made a commitment to return to Australian rugby. This would increase the standards of the Wallabies team and give the national coach more talent.
The contract truly combines the best of both sides of the Wallabies eligibility discussion. This contract gives Australian rugby the flexibility to limit the number of players it has playing overseas at any given time. While there will always be players who move to Australia permanently, this contract gives Australian rugby much more leverage.
Another point is that the formalization of player contracts with overseas clubs could result in the explicit formation of relationships between Super Rugby clubs. These relationships could lead to regular visits by players from overseas.
This is evident in the Reds’ announcement of an “alliance” with the Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan. It was no doubt the result of the close relationship between the respective head coaches Brad Thorns and Robbie Deans.
The agreement will include player and coach exchanges, as well as an overall effort to improve performance between the clubs. This will facilitate smart player contracting like I have described.
If a club has already attempted to create such a scenario why not extend the model to other clubs and invest in the future of the game?
Published Mon, 19 July 2021 at 20:46:21 (+0000).
This article was originally published at https://www.theroar.com.au/2021/07/20/operation McMahon-How-Aussie-rugby can-keep-more of-its-cattle/