There will be blood: Wednesday’s twist

There will be blood: Wednesday’s twist

If yesterday was round 1 to the ARU (via Grumbles Growden) then today is Demo and the players’ turn to strike back. However, I’m not sure they’ve helped their cause much at all, potentially the reverse.

At the bottom of this post is the RUPA’s official reply to Grumbles’ expose yesterday. It’s goal appears to be to cast the ‘money-grubbing’ spotlight back onto the ARU, saying that the players only wanted paying if the match was to be a commercial venture. On the face of it that would sound ‘fair enough’ to many.

However, there are some important details in the RUPA statement. In it, the ARU first asks RUPA in May whether the players will want a match fee for an internal trial at the SFS. RUPA finds out that such a match will also help NSWRU out of a hole, as their members were due an Australia A game as part of their initial package.

Over the next two months “discussions also took place directly between the Wallaby player group and the ARU senior management…over the subject”. In a column today from Rupert Guinness of The Herald, we read (via an ARU source) that

“there was an offer that if there was any surplus once the costs of the match were met, it would be donated to a charity of the players’ choice.”


The Wallabies said they were always keen to play the game for free if it was a non-commercial venture, but the source said if there were match proceeds, the players wanted them shared between the states and not just given to NSW. NSW members of the Wallabies supported either idea, the source said, but those from the Reds, Western Force or Brumbies did not.

In other words, even if the match was non-commercial, and all the proceeds went to charities across the states, the non-Waratah contingent of the players were against it as it would help the NSWRU out of their predicament.

Carefully then, read these words from the RUPA statement:

In August the RUPA, on behalf of the Wallaby group, conveyed to the ARU that if the game proposed was to be played at the SFS to ensure the NSWRU fulfilled its obligations to its members and therefore generate revenue then it was only reasonable the players be paid the usual fee for a similar Australia A type match – $2,500

So, even though there would be no proceeds from the game going to the ARU or NSWRU, the fact that this would help the NSWRU out of a $100/120k hole not of their own making (they didn’t can the Australia A programme) RUPA and the players wanted a taste. As the players fees would amount to $110k (coincidental?) this would still leave the NSWRU fully in the shit.

They were happy to play at “any local suburban park” for free, just not at the SFS.

If you were running the ARU, and saw a way to help one of your state unions who had got inadvertently screwed over by a tough financial decision you had made, while running a trial match that your coaching staff and fan-base wanted, what would you do?

How would you react if your employees, the players (yes, believe it or not they work for the ARU) told you they wouldn’t let you help that union, and serve the needs of the coaches and fans, out of spite?

If these are the facts, then today it certainly doesn’t look any better for the players or for RUPA.
The upshot is:

  • No charity will be seeing any surplusses (which no doubt would have been bigger from a match at the SFS than Lindfield oval)
  • A state union has to find $100k from somewhere else – development maybe?
  • Fans are denied a spectacle
  • The last non-club game we have to decide tour form was that clusterfuck in Wellington.

While there are no winners out of this debacle, I reckon I know who’s winning the media war. 2-0.


The RUPA response to “Wallabies sink tour trial for $2,500” SMH Article:

The RUPA responds to the inaccurate nature of the article published today by the Sydney Morning Herald entitled “Wallabies sink tour trial for $2,500”. In that article it is claimed that a proposed Possible- Probable’s [selection trial] match was postponed because of extraordinary pay demands from the Wallabies players.

The facts in this matter are as follows:

1. In or about August 2008 the ARU gave the rights to the NSWRU to host an Australia A match at the SFS;

2. In reliance on this the NSWRU sold from September 2008 as part of their membership package for 2009 an Australia A game;

3. In or about December 2008 the ARU withdrew from the Pacific Six nation tournament thus preventing the NSWRU from hosting the A game they had sold to members as part of their membership package;

4. In May 2009 the ARU first approached the RUPA to seek the player’s view on match fee for a game at the SFS to prepare the players for the game against the All Blacks scheduled to take place three weeks in Tokyo and to use it for selection of some younger fringe players for the upcoming European tour;

5. Discussions between the RUPA and the ARU then proceeded on details surrounding the match. From those discussions it emerged the match would be billed as the Wallabies V Australian Barbarians played at the SFS on a Sunday afternoon so that the NSWRU could honour its commitments to its members who has purchased the membership packages with an Australia A fixture included;

6. Discussions also took place directly between the Wallaby player group and the ARU senior management in June and July over the subject;

7. In August the RUPA, on behalf of the Wallaby group, conveyed to the ARU that if the game proposed was to be played at the SFS to ensure the NSWRU fulfilled its obligations to its members and therefore generate revenue then it was only reasonable the players be paid the usual fee for a similar Australia A type match – $2,500. If on the other hand the purpose of the match was solely to be used in preparation for the All Blacks match and for fringe selection purposes then the Wallabies would of course be happy to play the game at a local suburban park without request for a match fee;

8. In August 2009 the ARU responded to the RUPA suggestion by advising the game was not now proceeding in the format proposed but instead that the players’ preparation for the end of season tour would be altered to prepare them for the Tour in a different way;

9. The NSWRU has reimbursed its members for the Australia A game cancelled by the ARU last December.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s article is factually incorrect in a number of ways:

1. The match under discussion wasn’t simply about playing a trial – but about providing a substitute match for the NSWRU after the ARU cancelled their Australia A game last December;

2. The RUPA didn’t demand a payment of $2,500 but suggested a fee of $2,500 in response to a question by the ARU as to whether the players expected a fee;

3. After suggesting the fee the ARU decided to scrap the game without further discussion;

4. The ARU did not in recent days cancel the proposed Wallaby V Australian Barbarian match. It was called off in August;

5. The only venue proposed by the ARU to the RUPA was the SFS – not North Sydney Oval.

Tony Dempsey Chief Executive Officer of the RUPA said:

“It is easy for someone to suggest there are cracks within the player framework. Worse still it is easy to infer the players are money focused. A more challenging, difficult and yet constructive task is to provide positive solutions to the Wallabies recent lack of form against the All Blacks.

It is not clear what source the SHM relies upon when writing an article of this nature. Equally puzzling is why clarity was not sought about the issue from the RUPA before publishing it.

The Wallaby players’ themselves are generous both with their time and money when it comes to supporting charitable causes. Examples this year include donation of their first round Super match fees to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal and participation and support of numerous charities including but not limited to Cystic Fibrosis Australia, Starlight Foundation – various appearances, Blue September, Arthritis Australia – kids camps, Mission Australia – various programs, The Smith Family – various programs, The eMerge Foundation, Ovarian Cancer Australia, RSPCA, Cook Islands donation of books, Ronald McDonald House – various appearances, Xtrata Charity Rugby Day, Camp Quality – various, ActewAGL Country Visits, Red Cross Blood Donation, Cerebal Palsy, Breast Cancer – various, Movember, Pyjama Foundation, Red Kite, St Vincent de Paul – Youthreach/Matt Talbot, Retina Australia Foundation, It’s Time Foundation, Patch (Canberra Hospital), Red Frogs, The Why Genera tion, POW Sydney Hospital, Humpty Dumpty Foundation, This is Oz run by Acan – anti discrimination, Eightytwenty Vision, Wallabies Rewards program – Values in Sport Forum & Junior clubs, National Aboriginal Sports Corporate Australia (NASCA), Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, Rugby CONNECT – womens rugby, disabled, indigenous and Culturally & Linguistically Diverse populations.

The players also spend numerous hours volunteering their time to help out at grass roots rugby functions and events.

In addition to assist Australian Rugby with the downturn in the general economy Wallaby players agreed earlier this year to take a Test match pay cut. Further, players from the Waratahs and Reds (including Wallabies from these two states) have agreed to forgo one week’s leave without pay.

It is not the first time and dare we say the last that during a Wallaby form slump that it is suggested the players are either overpaid or money hungry. The reality is players are just as committed as ever in representing their country and take great pride in representing their country.

What is needed now in Australian rugby is a galvanizing of support for the Wallabies as they prepare for the November tour – not misinformed ill advised rhetoric about the attitude of players to money.”

Message Ends.

For Further Information contact:
Glenys Smith
PA to the Chief Executive Officer
The Rugby Union Players’ Association Inc


Matt started G&GR just before the 2007 Rugby World Cup and has been enslaved ever since. Follow him on twitter: @MattRowley

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