JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Australian Rugby Union changes contract rules in bid to keep elite players

Wanted man: Israel Folau plays against the All Blacks.

Wanted man: Israel Folau plays against the All Blacks. Photo: Getty Images

The Australian Rugby Union has armed itself with what it hopes will be a powerful tool to keep its top players in Australia and lure a few big names to sevens before the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016. 

Under new contracting rules, approved by the ARU board this week and announced on Thursday, a select group of top athletes will be able to spend one season playing in lucrative Japanese or European domestic competitions if they sign deals for three or more years.

In addition, players who switch to sevens will be able to play out the year overseas in Japan before returning to Australian rugby midway through the Super Rugby season in 2017.

While the offer will apply to current sevens players as well, it is squarely designed to encourage the country's highest-profile players – such as Israel Folau – to commit to Australian rugby long term. 

Assuming a 15s player would miss most or all of the 2016 Super Rugby season while they move to sevens, the provision would allow them to recoup in Japan any dip in income they experience in the first half of 2016. 

The so-called flexible contracts will be offered to only a small number of the top 25 to 30 players in Australia, with whom the ARU negotiates contracts directly and exclusively. 

The five Super Rugby provinces will also be able to offer one flexible contract per season to any of their domestic players outside that top group. 

Outside those players, the ARU has held fast to its policy that players based overseas long-term will not be eligible for Test selection. 

While it is not known how many players will be made the offer and how the process will work in practice, ARU chief Bill Pulver said he hoped it would stem the tide of top players leaving Australia. 

"We're trying to be proactive to an environment where certain international rugby nations have a very strong financial capability of luring players," Pulver said.

"The current policy is really black or white. So, by introducing this flexibility, we think it makes the decision a little easier.

"Players like Kane Douglas, Sitaleki Timani, Nick Cummins, in an ideal world, they're players we would have kept long term in our game.

"They're examples of players who may be influenced by these changes."

In some quarters, it had been suggested the ARU make no concrete policy on so-called "sabbaticals".

The New Zealand Rugby Union has allowed big names Dan Carter and Richie McCaw time away from domestic duties, and Sonny Bill Williams the freedom to flit in and out of rugby league and boxing.

But Pulver revealed a conversation about the challenge of luring high-profile players to sevens for the Olympics had triggered a wider conversation.  

"We consider the Olympics to be a serious priority for us," he said. "So whether it's Israel Folau or any other player, we're going to do everything we can to make sure the Australian Sevens team competes very effectively."

12 comments so far

  • Messiah and Pulver were against this when quizzed about this some months back. Now the policy has been flipped. Better for the wobblies in the long term.

    Commenter
    Rugnut
    Location
    Brisbane
    Date and time
    August 28, 2014, 11:27AM
    • Nice to see the ARU facing some reality, a fairly creative solution to a very real issue

      Commenter
      jonoinmanila
      Location
      Manila
      Date and time
      August 28, 2014, 12:11PM
      • When I saw the news, about SBW being given an 'exception' by the NRU to play for the ABs, I thought...how long before the ARU do something similar ?

        It didn't take long !

        Commenter
        Machooka
        Location
        inner west sydney
        Date and time
        August 28, 2014, 12:18PM
        • @ Chook... In the long run, I don't think it is very fair what the NZRFU has done in regards to SBW. My argument is, what about the talent coming through,in club & ITM rugby in New Zealand. There is a stack of it especially in the position that he will be required to play in. I do realize that the NZRFU has outlayed a fair amount to secure him, but I do know I am not alone in these thoughts, as in NZ there has been a bit of an outcry. SBW seems to think that he will represent NZ at the Rio Olympics, in the seven's format. This I doubt very much. My reasoning is, come the Olympiad, he will be 31 or 32. He has never played the game at that level, and it's not a game that you learn "over night". Gordon Teitjens has virtually run NZ seven's now for over three decades, with his method of success being blending great young talent with a few years of experience. re, DJ Forbes & Tim Mickkleson. It has been very successful, and for SBW to get past Teitjens, will be very interesting. I can imagine Teitjens response. Cheers.

          Commenter
          Muzzo
          Location
          Orange
          Date and time
          August 28, 2014, 3:30PM
        • @muzzo, agree completely. Everyone that I know is on the same page, money bill should not have any exemption. The nzrfu have sold their souls to the devil for him and to all those lads plugging away in s15 ans itm, all for what. Money is not worth that much. Nzrl did the same thing for him when he had a change of heart and look at how that panned out for them. If nzrfu think he is going to win them rwc15, they are on crack.
          I feel sorry for crotty and bateman and any other 2nd 5 playing in nz. I will feel equally sorry for any oz 7s player who misses the games for folau or any other 15s player that is taken.

          Commenter
          Nate
          Location
          Melbs
          Date and time
          August 28, 2014, 6:16PM
        • @ Muzzo

          Hey, when I brought up the example of SBW it wasn't an excuse to discuss the plight of NZ Rugby... but more a highlight of the ARU doing similar, and upping it.
          Both Unions have had in place, for yonks, a code of selection that if you want to play for country this is what you've gotta do. In the past, and recent past, there has been discussion on relaxing the 'rules' to do this. And your thoughts, as stated, I am not in disagreement with. What appears now to be the case is that both Unions realise what the inclusion of 'seven's rugby' in the next Olympics really means to their Rugby programmes.
          Exposure. Money. Success.
          This is the reason why the landscape is changing... and maybe, probably, possibly needs to.
          I'm old school, like you, where it's been the case that should you wish to play for country there's a cost... right or wrong... there is, at present, a cost. A personal cost.
          The ARU can't compete with the $s that are being thrown around in the NH. To protect their market they had to enforce this 'code of selection' and in doing so it gives talent, up and coming talent, a chance to go on to better things.... as it should be !
          Anyhow, let's see how it plays out.... then jump all over it or give congratulations for their foresight :)

          Commenter
          Machooka
          Location
          inner west sydney
          Date and time
          August 28, 2014, 8:50PM
      • Finally we are heading in the right direction with player contracting which will result in a positive outcome for players, the Wallabies and fans.
        I think that this will just be the start and will pave the way for further modifications to the current unworkable model. First job - get the Honey Badger back ASAP!!!

        Commenter
        Brow
        Date and time
        August 28, 2014, 2:06PM
        • Until Australia has greeater depth of test players we shouldnt be excluding any overseas based stars. That hard line rule only helps one thing - our competitors ! Go Wallabies

          Commenter
          Hazza
          Location
          Norway
          Date and time
          August 28, 2014, 3:32PM
          • Don't forget Matt Giteau. And before you write him off as a has been, look up what the retiring Johnny Wilkinson said of him, less than 12 months ago.

            Commenter
            Jersey
            Location
            Junee
            Date and time
            August 28, 2014, 4:06PM
            • ...Soft.
              ...$500K and didn't show up against the ABs.
              ...Soft.

              Commenter
              Rah Rah
              Location
              Pussies
              Date and time
              August 28, 2014, 4:22PM

              More comments

              Make a comment

              You are logged in as [Logout]

              All information entered below may be published.

              Error: Please enter your screen name.

              Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

              Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

              Error: Please enter your comment.

              Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

              Post to

              You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

              Thank you

              Your comment has been submitted for approval.

              Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

              Super Rugby 2015

              Round 1
              Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
              CRU 10 vs REB 20 Report Stats
              BRU 47 vs RED 3 Stats
              Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
              LIO 8 vs HUR 22 Report Stats
              BLU 18 vs CHF 23 Report Stats
              Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
              SHA 29 vs CHT 35 Report Stats
              BUL 17 vs STO 29 Report Stats
              WAR 13 vs FOR 25 Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 2
              Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
              CHF 19 vs BRU 17 Report Stats
              REB 28 vs WAR 38 Report Stats
              Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
              BUL 13 vs HUR 17 Report Stats
              HIG 20 vs CRU 26 Report Stats
              RED 18 vs FOR 6 Report Stats
              Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
              STO 27 vs BLU 16 Report Stats
              SHA 29 vs LIO 12 Report Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 3
              Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
              HIG 20 vs RED 13 Report Stats
              FOR 13 vs HUR 42 Stats
              Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
              CHT 25 vs BLU 24 Report Stats
              CHF 40 vs CRU 16 Stats
              REB 15 vs BRU 20 Report Stats
              Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
              BUL 43 vs SHA 35 Report Stats
              LIO 19 vs STO 22 Report Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 4
              Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
              CHF 17 vs HIG 20 Report Stats
              BRU 27 vs FOR 15 Report Stats
              Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
              BLU 10 vs LIO 13 Report Stats
              RED 5 vs WAR 23 Report Stats
              Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
              CHT 20 vs BUL 39 Report Stats
              STO 29 vs SHA 13 Report Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 5
              Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
              HUR 30 vs BLU 23 Report Stats
              FOR 17 vs REB 21 Report Stats
              Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
              CRU 34 vs LIO 6 Report Stats
              HIG 26 vs WAR 19 Report Stats
              RED vs BRU 29 Stats
              Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
              STO 19 vs CHF 28 Report Stats
              CHT 10 vs SHA 27 Report Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 6
              Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
              HIG 13 vs HUR 20 Report Stats
              REB 16 vs LIO 20 Report Stats
              Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
              CRU 57 vs CHT 14 Report Stats
              Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
              BUL 25 vs FOR 24 Report Stats
              SHA 12 vs CHF 11 Report Stats
              WAR 28 vs BRU 13 Report Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 7
              Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
              HUR 36 vs REB 12 Report Stats
              RED 17 vs LIO 18 Report Stats
              Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
              CHF 37 vs CHT 27 Report Stats
              HIG 39 vs STO 21 Report Stats
              WAR 23 vs BLU 11 Report Stats
              Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
              SHA 15 vs FOR 9 Report Stats
              BUL 31 vs CRU 19 Report Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 8
              Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
              HUR 25 vs STO 20 Report Stats
              REB 23 vs RED 15 Report Stats
              Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
              CHF 23 vs BLU 16 Report Stats
              BRU 20 vs CHT 3 Report Stats
              Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
              SHA 10 vs CRU 52 Report Stats
              LIO 22 vs BUL 18 Report Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 9
              Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
              BLU 16 vs BRU 14 Report Stats
              Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
              CRU 20 vs HIG 25 Report Stats
              WAR 18 vs STO 32 Report Stats
              FOR 15 vs CHT 24 Report Stats
              Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
              LIO 23 vs SHA 21 Report Stats
              BUL 43 vs RED 22 Report Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 10
              Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
              CRU 9 vs CHF 26 Report Stats
              Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
              HUR 24 vs WAR 29 Report Stats
              HIG 30 vs BLU 24 Report Stats
              BRU 8 vs REB 13 Report Stats
              FOR 6 vs STO 13 Report Stats
              Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
              SHA 10 vs BUL 17 Report Stats
              CHT 17 vs RED 18 Report Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 11
              Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
              CHF 35 vs FOR 27 Report Stats
              BRU 31 vs HIG 18 Report Stats
              Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
              CRU 29 vs BLU 15 Report Stats
              WAR 18 vs REB 16 Report Stats
              Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
              LIO 34 vs CHT 29 Report Stats
              STO 15 vs BUL 13 Report Stats
              RED 19 vs HUR 35 Report Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 12
              Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
              HIG 48 vs SHA 15 Report Stats
              BRU 10 vs WAR 13 Report Stats
              Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
              BLU 41 vs FOR 24 Report Stats
              HUR 29 vs CRU 23 Report Stats
              REB 16 vs CHF 15 Report Stats
              Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
              CHT 25 vs STO 17 Report Stats
              BUL 35 vs LIO 33 Report Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 13
              Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
              CRU vs RED 17:35AMI
              REB vs BLU 19:40AAMI
              Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
              HUR vs SHA 17:35WS
              FOR vs WAR 19:40nib Stadium
              LIO vs HIG 23:00Emirates Airlines Park
              Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
              STO vs BRU 01:05DHL Newlands
              View All Fixtures
              Round 14
              Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
              BLU vs BUL 17:35EP
              RED vs REB 19:40SS
              Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
              HUR vs CHF 17:35WS
              WAR vs SHA 19:40AS
              Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
              LIO vs BRU 01:05Emirates Airlines Park
              CHT vs HIG 03:10FSS
              View All Fixtures
              Round 15
              Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
              CHF vs BUL 17:35Rotorua International Stadium
              RED vs SHA 19:40SS
              Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
              BLU vs HUR 17:35Emirates Airlines Park
              WAR vs CRU 19:40ANZ
              FOR vs HIG 21:45nib Stadium
              Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
              CHT vs LIO 01:05FSS
              STO vs REB 03:10DHL Newlands
              View All Fixtures
              Round 16
              Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
              CRU vs HUR 17:35Trafalgar Park
              BRU vs BUL 19:40GIO Stadium
              Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
              SHA vs REB 03:10Growthpoint Kings Park
              HIG vs CHF 17:35Rugby Park
              FOR vs RED 19:40nib Stadium
              Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
              STO vs CHT 01:05DHL Newlands
              LIO vs WAR 03:10Emirates Airlines Park
              View All Fixtures
              Round 17
              Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
              HUR vs HIG 17:35McLean Park
              FOR vs BRU 21:00nib Stadium
              Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
              REB vs BUL 15:30AAMI
              BLU vs CRU 17:35EP
              RED vs CHF 19:40SS
              CHT vs WAR 23:00FSS
              Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
              STO vs LIO 01:05DHL Newlands
              View All Fixtures
              Round 18
              Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
              BLU vs HIG 17:35EP
              REB vs FOR 19:40AAMI
              Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
              BRU vs CRU 15:30GIO Stadium
              CHF vs HUR 17:35Yarrow Stadium
              WAR vs RED 19:40AS
              Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
              BUL vs CHT 01:05Loftus Versfeld
              SHA vs STO 03:10Growthpoint Kings Park
              View All Fixtures
              Round 19
              Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
              7 vs 7 09:00
              Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
              7 vs 7 09:00
              View All Fixtures
              Round 20
              Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
              7 vs 7 09:00
              Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
              7 vs 7 09:00
              View All Fixtures
              Round 21
              Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
              7 vs 7 09:00
              View All Fixtures
              Super Rugby 2015
              Overall standings
              Team P W L D +/- Pts
              Hurricanes 10 9 1 0 107 43
              Bulls 11 7 4 0 48 34
              Brumbies 11 6 5 0 93 32
              Chiefs 11 8 3 0 77 38
              Waratahs 10 7 3 0 32 31
              Stormers 11 7 4 0 25 30
              Highlanders 10 7 3 0 53 33
              Lions 11 6 5 0 -45 27
              View all
               
              Featured advertisers