Over the last month, there has been plenty of speculation in the media about the so called “exodus” of players departing Australian shores to take up lucrative offers from European and Japanese clubs. The value of contracts which appear to be on offer abroad places enormous competitive pressure on Australian Rugby to retain talented players, and it isn’t an issue exclusive to Wallaby players alone, with foreign raids delving into our development ranks.
Along with such speculation has come further scrutiny about the likely effectiveness of the ARU’s new Flexible Contracting Policy. After today’s announcement of the first player to officially receive such a contract, I am sure there will be plenty more speculation to come.
Today’s announcement certainly heralds a new era for player contracting, as the game attempts to leverage the benefits of the international player market, rather than continue to be challenged by it. It’s an evolution that, assuming the effective management of player welfare and wellbeing issues – a process RUPA and ARU will continue to engage on - can provide the ARU with additional options in the interests of retaining Australia’s finest and emerging talent.
It is likely then, that the growth of the international rugby player market will see more players, at some stage in their careers, experience participating in an overseas competition. Whilst in the past this has typically occurred towards the end of a player’s time in the game, increased flexibility will change the timings and lengths of such sojourns. With this change comes the need for players to be more aware and focused on their personal development during their careers to maximise the opportunities – employment and otherwise – that they can take advantage of in their lives after rugby.
In the past few weeks, RUPA has spent considerable time reviewing the support that we provide players and how we involve and engage players in our initiatives. On Tuesday, we took the time to bring together RUPA staff from around the country to redefine the objectives of one of our key service arms - our Player Development Program (PDP).
The RUPA PDP, supported by the ARU and the Super Rugby teams, aims to provide off-field support, principally through education and welfare based initiatives which help grow the calibre of the person, and in turn, the rugby player. It’s a program which plays a key role in more than 40% of RUPA’s membership being currently enrolled in University courses and in excess of two thirds completing some form of further study via diploma or TAFE courses… and a program that I am proud is the theme of this latest newsletter.