The negotiating process for Australia’s top rugby stars has been turned on its head with a new edict stipulating that each player must first settle their franchise deal before they receive an ARU top-up.
Wallabies who are ranked among the top 32 players in the country will be eligible for top-ups, but their franchises will not be aware of what the top-up is worth and therefore must front up with big cash.
If they do not, other franchises are sure to swoop, while the ARU would then be left to pay vastly smaller top-up amounts.
With the top-up list having been cut from 54 to 32 in the past two years, ARU boss John O’Neill said it was time the franchises took ownership of big-name recruiting.
“The player, no matter who they are, have to do their provincial contract first and then those who are in the Wallaby top-up space then do their Wallaby contract,” O’Neill said.
“It used to be the reverse sequence, come to the ARU first and do your provincial contract second.
“The batting order is now you’ve got to lock away your provincial contract, and a much smaller cohort will be given Wallaby top-ups.
“It is a shift in accountability more pointedly back to the franchise, to run their businesses within their own budget constraints.”
Asked if coaches could offer their best Wallaby players “unders” in anticipation of a big ARU top-up, O’Neill replied: “That’s risky, without knowing what the magnitude of our top-up might be . . . we’re not a balancing item. It’s a bit like cricket . . . we’re ranking them, which is what we should have been doing all the time.
“This is a smaller group identified by Robbie Deans and David Nucifora and ranked according to their value. It doesn’t stop the provinces paying what they believe is fair and reasonable remuneration for Super Rugby purposes.
“If you’re a Wallaby, in the 22, you’re likely to earn $13,000 a Test match. If there is somewhere in excess of 12-14 Test matches a year, times $13,000, you can see we won’t be out of the money for those top 30-odd players in total terms.
“When people say you’re risking losing them overseas, with those 32 that we’ve ranked, I don’t see there is a risk there.”
Yet with offers from overseas clubs and potentially rugby league, the 32 players will be given total figures at the negotiating table that will be far more clear than what they stand to earn when negotiating with franchises.
RUPA chief executive Greg Harris said: “We understand where the ARU is coming from, but we think there are some processes to be negotiated in the CBA which we’re conducting at the moment.”
Buford Balony says: Easy choice for the no1 player David Pocock.