There is one clear winner from yesterday’s decision by the Australian Rugby Union to release Wallaby Mat Rogers from the final year of his contract – other than Rogers himself, of course – and that is common sense.
The ARU in a statement yesterday made it very clear its decision was based on compassionate grounds – and the reality that Rogers no longer felt he could give a 100% commitment to the Wallabies or the NSW Waratahs.
What was not said in the statement was a factor I believe the ARU rightly took into account.
There is no evidence Rogers wanted a release from his ARU contract so he could secure a more lucrative financial contract with the Gold Coast Titans Rugby League Club for the 2007 season.
His agreement with the ARU was reportedly worth around $500,000 a year. If he brings forward by one year his contract with the Titans – he is already signed for 2008 – then I cannot possibly see how the Titans can remain within the salary cap and pay him more than $500,000 for the 2007 season.
I suspect that is the difference between the willingness of the ARU to immediately release Rogers and other instances, in all football codes, where players clearly want to break contracts because of a more lucrative alternative.
The Titans won’t sign Rogers for a month or so. He needs to deal with the personal problems the ARU clearly acknowledged, and Rogers himself acknowledged.
But the Titans have another problem to solve before then. It concerns Melbourne Storm player, Steve Turner, who the Titans won’t release from the “contract” he agreed to with the club.
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The Titans have shifted from their intransigent position. They are proposing a swap. Turner can stay with Storm if Storm release two younger players to join the Titans.
Perhaps the Titans could follow the example of the ARU and take a realistic view of the position. Why pay a player who simply does not want to play in their team?
And they could reasonably insist on – and the NRL could enforce – a condition that Turner be paid less by the Storm than his Titans contract provides.
The Mat Rogers decision is a credit to the ARU and the NSWRU, and a welcome victory for common sense.