With another disappointing European tour bumbling to its conclusion this weekend, Wallaby fans don’t have to be reminded all is not well on our cloud of the heavenly game.
What we don’t need on top of that is a players’ strike and subsequent lockout by the ARU in the sevens branch of the game.
In another sign of the disconnect between the union’s expectations and the on-field performance, the Rugby Union Players’ Association has had its bluff called and cost eight or nine young footballers the chance to pull on the gold jersey to represent their country in Dubai next weekend and South Africa the week after.
Instead, the ARU has scrambled to find a team outside the sevens squad of 22 players who have been training for the past two months.
It’s a sorry story – particularly given the spectacular lack of success for our sevens team, including the inglorious defeat by Russia in the last IRB tournament.
Basically, the semi-professional sevens players receive $1,500 a tournament or, effectively, $3,000 for two weekends’ rugby and the travel that surrounds them as the competition is run in paired weekends.
It’s not enough to live on and does interfere with other jobs, but these are fringe players, none of them on Super 14 contracts. The ARU treats sevens merely as a stepping-stone to the 15-a-side game.
RUPA pulled a sudden stunt of wanting $7000 for the two weekends or the players would be unavailable to fly out on Monday for the Dubai Sevens. The ARU said the money wasn’t available. RUPA held firm and kept 18 or 19 of the squad in line – but the ARU called their bluff and will announce a team of 12 today without those players.
RUPA’s spin is that it won a “review” of the Sevens system – which appears to be a rather desperate effort at face-saving when the reality is that the association achieved no more money and now has some very disappointed young members.