Dave Rennie’s pay in the spotlight as Wallabies exodus fears mount

Dave Rennie. Picture: RUGBY AUSTRALIA.

The Waratahs are fighting to hold on to young Wallabies Jack Maddocks and Tom Robertson as the new Australian connection in USA Rugby begins a massive recruitment drive and a growing number of players eye offshore competitions.

Maddocks and Robertson, and four-test Brumbies halfback Joe Powell are all in talks to join the Los Angeles based Major League Rugby side LA Giltinis by the end of the year.

They are only the latest players to be linked to moves overseas, with Reds trio Izack Rodda, Isaac Lucas and Harry Hockings released by Queensland last month after refusing to take the union-agreed pay cuts. In Melbourne, Luke Jones (Racing-Metro), Jermaine Ansley (Highlanders), Harry Potter (Leicester) and Matt Philip (Pau) are confirmed departures, while Billy Meakes, Angus Cottrell and a raft of others have also indicated they will leave Australian rugby.

They are likely the tip of the iceberg, with no agreement yet on what broadcaster Foxtel will agree to pay for Rugby Australia’s five-team domestic competition, much less what next year’s Super Rugby competition will look like or who RA will team up with as broadcast partner.

A depressed domestic player market seems a certain outcome, but even getting to that point could be a rocky process.

The current 60 per cent agreement is valid until the end of September but must be re-negotiated as soon as RA secures a deal with Foxtel on what the broadcaster will pay for the shortened competition. The deal will have to be re-negotiated again once RA secures a broadcast partner for 2021 and beyond.

Another potential flash point is the subject of Wallabies coach Dave Rennie’s salary, which has so far been left intact.

Interim boss Rob Clarke said this week that Rennie’s rumoured A$1 million ($1.07m) a year package would not be touched, despite the player pay cuts, head office slashing 40 per cent of its head count and Clarke foreshadowing cuts to Super Rugby clubs as the razor gang’s next target.

Rennie’s contract does not start until July but Clarke has ruffled feathers among players by cordoning off the Wallabies high performance program from the cutbacks, which also includes director of Scott Johnson and Rennie’s assistants.

Meanwhile, the United States is continuing to emerge as a genuine market for top Australian talent. The Venice Beach-based Giltinis, owned by Australia’s F45 founder Adam Gilchrist, last week unveiled former Wallaby Stephen Hoiles and Gordon first grade coach Darren Coleman as club coaches.

The pair will not join the club until November but they are not wasting any time on recruitment, reaching out to a number of off-contract Australian stars about a potential move to the United States.

The club confirmed their interest in test-capped trio Robertson, Maddocks and Powell, but said there was no rush to ink deals, with the next MLR season not getting underway until February.

All three are off contract with their Super Rugby clubs and face uncertain futures at test level. They all missed the cut for Rennie’s “players of national interest” squad in April, while Powell has not been offered a contract for next year, with the Brumbies preparing to welcome back Nic White and investing in up and comer Ryan Lonergan.

The Waratahs, however, are desperate to keep Maddocks and Robertson, with the former a natural replacement for the departing fullback Kurtley Beale and injury-plagued Robertson considered key to NSW fielding a stronger front row next season.

“They’re two guys in their early 20s who’ve had brushes with the Wallabies,” NSW rugby general manager Tim Rapp said.

“They’re home grown talents and we definitely want to keep them, because we consider them part of a long term strategy for success for NSW.

“The reality is there’s an American team going ahead with some Australian support staff.

“We speak to all of our blokes who are off contract and it’s natural that people are going to want them because they’re bloody good players. On top of that there’s uncertainty around what 2021 looks like and that’s adding pressure too.”

 

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