Latest mis-Trial match twist with statement from RUPA

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

  • Patrick

    A more challenging, difficult and yet constructive task is to provide positive solutions to the Wallabies recent lack of form against the All Blacks.

    Fucken kicking them up the arse comes to mind.

    Definitely 2-0, can we just sack the players’ association and start again? John Eales could lead it, for example, or Horan.

    • Mark

      I have an idea for a positive solution to the Wallabies recent form. Has anyone thought of an internal trial match tp prepare for the tour? Say a possibles vs probables format?

      Just a thought…

  • Henry

    Yeah! LINDFIELD oval! Lets play there!

  • Karen Morris

    Whilst I think it’s certainly admirable that the players support all those worthy charities I’d like to take issue with their considerable involvement at grass roots level. The only time rugby juniors have any opportunity of learning from, or spending time with their heroes is if someone within their club (usually an ex player) has connections within the establishment and can organise something directly.

    An established program (apart from the the HSBC Free Kick clinics which are sensationally organised and give so much to the kids) where the players get involved with their fans is nowhere to be seen and the amount of red tape you have to cut through to get players to attend any kind of event is worse than trying to get information out of ASIO.

    The only solution to any of this is to get rid of the political backstabbing within the core of the code and for everyone to start thinking outwardly and how to re-establish rugby as a stronghold sport. It isn’t just about the players performing on-field, though that obviously helps. There is so much more that can be done.

  • Ozrugbynut

    “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;”

    Clearly the ARU didn’t expect that the players would expect a fee! :-)

    This spin-doctored statement from RUPA does much to try and deflect things away from the central issue. Certainly it seems the players donate their time to grassroots rugby and do meaningful charity work, and took a pay cut due to the GFC (like, I dare say, most Australians have).

    But the issue is should they have forgone a trifling $2500 match fee (in the context of their total remuneration) to support their employer, and also the NSWRU? Any employer can reasonably expect an employee to support the success of the venture (Australian Rugby). I don’t see forgoing this small match fee as unreasonable, to ensure a game, with clear benefits to all stakeholders, is played.

    As a result of this, no one wins: Coaches don’t get an additional game to observe fringe players, player form or test combinations; fringe players don’t get an opportunity to impress the selectors; the loyal rugby fans are deprived of what certainly would have been an entertaining game; NSWRU had to hand back $120-140k in revenue to ticket holders; and the ARU lose an opportunity to further develop and promote the game, which, in the context of rugby’s place in Australia’s football landscape, is critical more than ever.

    Certainly, with the facts laid bare, RUPA and the players are well within their rights to seek a match fee, but there seems to be no bigger concern about the game. This decision to pursue a small match fee, reasonable but unreasonable, is mystifying.

    Players should support the system which supports them.

    • Ozrugbynut

      I would add that the ARU has played the PR game on this one perfectly, but perhaps RUPA was too shortsighted to see what the result would be…

    • derrida derider

      “As a result of this, no one wins …”

      There is one group of winners here – any established players who are nervous that a Probables/Possibles game would show them up and see them dropped. They are right to be nervous.

      • Scarfman

        Interesting name DD. Do I know you? Come clean, man.

      • Ozrugbynut

        True dat

  • Rick_Steel

    Assuming the RUPA is being truthful, its not really fair for them to shoulder the entire blame. If there was no further discussion after the fee was suggested then we don’t know what solution could have been reached if there had been more negotiation.

  • My priest told me God loves a good hard possibles vs probables match.

    With the game now in doubt, it looks like he’s casting his dusty wrath upon the east coast of Oz…

  • Robson

    This is all smoke and mirrors stuff.

    Who do you believe and how much of it do you believe?

    There is one central issue and nothing about player’s cash rights (as if they haven’t got a truckload of the stuff already)or rights in general is more important.

    And it is this.

    The state of the national game.

    A trial match under whatever circumstances is an important building block in returning the state of the national game to where it should be. Players have serious obligations and responsibilities to that ideal over and above any balhooly about payment considerations which in this context is nothing more than pure bullshit.

    If they can’t see that and rise up collectively as a body of athletes, ignore their union and take the park unpaid then they should be playing blackjack in the casino, not a game like rugby union.

    The game in Australia is better off without them and they would soon get replaced.

  • Juan Cote

    So yet again the ARU is trying to bankroll the NSWRU – it shits me.

    The Reds get fuck all in the way of concessions from the ARU but the Tahs once again stand to get a benefit not available to the other states.

    The ARU throws money at Phil Waugh to keep him at the Tahs, even though he is nowhere near being part of the Wallaby team while they short-change players like Diggers, Madness and in years past, Rodzilla.

    I’m with RUPA on this issue.

    • Commie

      • Lance Free

        From neo liberal to social democrat in one fell swoop?

        • I think he just likes the colour Lance

        • Juan Cote

          The only politics that interest me are the self-interest sort

    • Ozrugbynut

      The ARUs mandate is to achieve the best result possible for Australian Rugby as a whole – if that means helping NSWRU by assisting to keep Waugh at the Waratahs so be it. You couldn’t possibly argue QLD haven’t received support from the ARU in the past?

      The Force and (potential) VIC team are an example of the role the ARU need to play by supporting each province.

    • Ozrugbynut

      Its exactly this sh*t which is holding OZ rugby back. I don’t give a flying f*uck where the cash goes, so long as it serves the national interest, but having said this, the national interest is in developing QLD rugby.

      It’s the only state producing hard forwards at the moment (I’m from NSW)!

  • Chris

    It seems that the only rugby games that Australians play well are of the backroom political nature.
    Exhibit 1. Petty interstate rivalries and financial short-sightedness cruels a possibles v probables game that would have benefitted Australian rugby (good old fashioned competition) and its biggest rugby nursery (NSW).
    Exhbit 2. Tony Dempsey and JON are still playing out decades old rivalries. I don’t know either of them – but it seems to me that Dempsey serves a faily parasitic role in Australian rugby. He leverages off the historical success of the Wallaby brand (reflecting some very shrewed management by the ARU of very limited playing stocks) to negotiate salary packages that represent a significant drain on the ARU and are out of step with actual performance. Giteau and O’Connor should not be among the highest paid sportsman in this country. Dempsey want’s JON’s job – but he doesn’t have any runs on the board and his handling of RUPA shows that he’s more interested in self promotion than the interests of Australian rugby – not the ideal credentials for running the ARU. He also has the slimy (transparent)habit of putting words in other peoples mouths.
    Exhibit 3. The administrators at the NSW and QLD unions. So incompetant that some very good coaches (Louden and Cheika) find them impossible to deal with. They’re like politicians who treat public office as an excuse to self promote and self congratulate instead of as a vehicle for service. Unfortunately, they’re also either dumb or lazy – otherwise they’d understand that by doing their job well they’d increase the size of the pie (the wallaby brand) for the benefit of everyone.
    Exhibit 4. The turkeys who are curently squabbling about the Melbourne bid. Both sides undboutedly feel that thier respective bids are brilliant and that they are indispensible to Victorian rugby. of course the problem is that no one is ever indispensible and if they don’t compromise and work something out, there will be no Victorian rugby. The Jaapies don’t need this team as much as we do bc they have a strong domestic comp – for us it’s imperative because a 5th team will help address our chronic depth issues. These blokes owe it to Australian rugby to sort it out.

    To all the administrators mentioned above, I say: get over yourselves. What kind of a victory will it be if the code you purport to serve doesn’t exist anymore? And make no mistake – with the other codes getting more and more traction – the decisions that get made by all the key stakeholders in the next 2 years will determine the medium-term viability of rugby in this country. Those decisions should focus on improving our biggest systemic weakness – player depth. As the quickest route to improving player depth we need to get the Melbourne bid right.
    And I would pay to go and see possibles belt some of the probables. And I don’t care (and no-one else should) where the money goes as long as its to rugby in this country. So pull your heads in and make it happen.

  • CanadianRugby

    Alright, I wrote a long rant about this the other day, so I’ll keep this one shorter.

    I’m totally with the RUPA. I think everyone is missing an important line in the RUPA letter.

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

    John O’Neil just waited till the Wallabies were at their lowest public opinion after a terrible game and shoved his hand up Greg Growden ass and used him as a puppet to hammer Tony Dempsey. What did this achieve? It embarrased everyone associated with Australian Rugby. Please don’t tell me this is about helping the NSWRU. The ARU could bail them out. And unless someone convinces me otherwise, the NSWRU and ARU could STILL have made money with paying the player’s very small match fee. (Concessions, TV rights, parking)

    Fire John O’Neil. He is the one ruining Australian Rugby.

    • Sandpit Fan

      And just how will the ARU be able to bail the NSWRU out (again) when they have to fork out a lazy $100,000 to get just to get the players onto the park for a glorified selection game?

      Correct me if I’m wrong mate, but don’t the majority of the wallabies get a prety good pay cheque at the end of the month? It’s not like they are on the bones of their arse struggling to put food on the table and pay the rent. As you so rightly point out, it’s such a small match fee…I know plenty of people who work their guts out for not much more per month, not per 80 minutes.

      Dempsey & O’Neil are both part of the problem, I don’t think there’s much argument about that. The game would be better off if both of them were given the flick.

      Don’t let the politics detract from the basic issue, which is players who think they are bigger than the game, and that it owes them a living.

      • CanadianRugby

        the players were willing to play the game for free for charity. The players get a cheque, the board gets cheques, the coaches get cheque? My point is, if the Unions are getting money off the players work, the player should get some too. Anyone who think they wouldn’t demand the same thing in their position is lying to themselves.

        • Ozrugbynut

          Mate, no one is refuting the right of a player to extract a match fee for games for commercial benefit, and the ARU has played a strong PR card with this, however, I feel you are missing the central issue here:

          Why, when the players are well remunerated, were they (or RUPA)squabbling over a mere $2500?

          Where is the support from RUPA to the ARU?

  • Seb V

    where the hell is aussie rugby leading too… we need our pride back then we might win some games

    • Robson

      Zactly, there is no way the WBs are going to produce consistent quality performances with this unmitigated, cheap claptrap going on in the background.

      I’m staggered that posts throughout this topic are either for or against RUPA, NSWRU, ARU or whatever ….. sigh.

      Whilst this phoney war rages overhead does anyone think about what is happening to your game, the game that is played on the park by men who want to compete playing rugby – not politics.

      The problem in Australian rugby is poisonous inter state rivalry and conflict and political one upmanship between unions and within unions.

      Get that sorted and you might actually one day be able to play some rugby.

      • Ozrugbynut

        I’d say this phoney war is important to ensure the ARU have the power they need to direct the course of the game in Australia, but in the short term it has obviously caused damage.

        The game is bigger than the players.

  • Mark

    Maybe some of these blokes could try their hand at League, where there are better athletes earning half the wage, to appreciate that sometimes you need to knuckle down and show that you want to earn your half million a season.

  • HE

    Maybe some of these blokes could try their hand at League, where there are better athletes earning half the wage, to appreciate that sometimes you need to knuckle down and show that you want to earn your half million a season.<p class=”top-comments”>Current score: <span class=”top-comments-karma” id=”karma-12297″>0</span> <small>(to vote for this comment, please visit the site)</small></p>


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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