The Rugby Union Players’ Association (RUPA) is pleased to announce that Damien Fitzpatrick has been elected as our ninth President, following the conclusion of the 2018 RUPA Board Elections process.
Fitzpatrick succeeds Dean Mumm, who played a critical role in being the leading players’ voice in driving a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) late last year, before having to relinquish his position following his retirement from professional Rugby.
Fitzpatrick follows in the footsteps of immediate predecessor Mumm (2017), Benn Robinson (2014-2016), Adam Wallace-Harrison (2013), Adam Freier (2010-2012), Rod Kafer (2000-2001 & 2006-2010), Justin Harrison (2004-2005), Daniel Herbert (2002-2003) and Tony Dempsey (1996-2000) in being elected as RUPA President.
A product of Mosman Whales and Eastwood Rugby Clubs, as well as an Australian Schoolboys and Australian U20s representative, Fitzpatrick made his Super Rugby debut for the Waratahs in 2009, returning to the Club in 2017 after spending three seasons in France with Lyon. Three serious knee injuries have threatened his career at stages, however 28-year-old Fitzpatrick has still managed to amass an enviable 64 appearances across Super Rugby, French Top 14 and D2, and the European Challenge Cup.
Further to that, Fitzpatrick has starred for the Sydney Rays in the National Rugby Championship (NRC), scoring 9 tries in 15 appearances over the past two seasons as well as Captaining the side.
Fitzpatrick is in the final throes of completing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Macquarie Graduate School of Management, having completed a Bachelor of Commerce at Macquarie University in 2015. He was personally involved in negotiations for the new CBA, sitting in on critical meetings between RUPA and Rugby Australia (RA) as a player representative alongside Mumm and several other current players.
Fitzpatrick said he was looking forward to continuing the legacy which his predecessors have developed of ensuring that the workplace of Australian Rugby continues to evolve for the benefit of the players and the game.
“I am delighted to be working on behalf of all professional players across the country and with the Rugby Bodies in this new role, and I’m thrilled to be elected RUPA President,” he said.
“In the context of a really challenging last year for Australian Rugby, it was vital for the players that we were able to show our commitment to helping the future of the game and getting personally involved in CBA negotiations. With a team being axed from the competition and all the challenges players were facing, I felt I had an obligation to support RUPA and in those negotiations to try and get the outcomes which players collectively were seeking.
“I’ve been lucky enough to play alongside both Dean and Benn Robinson, and I will certainly look to replicate many of the traits that they brought to the role. Both of them always made sure all of the players understood just how important RUPA is as a vehicle to promote the best interests of the game, and the importance of protecting the players’ wellbeing and rights. I would like any player, anywhere in the country, to feel comfortable to give me a call and discuss anything that I can assist with.”
Fitzpatrick also said he was keen to ensure the high-performance environment for all elite players continued to evolve and to continue to support the hugely positive impact of the professionalisation of Women’s Rugby.
“It means an awful lot to be representing all of the Super Rugby and Rugby Sevens players across the entire country. Last year I saw the impact that Shannon Parry and Alicia Quirk had in the boardroom, and strongly believe that all women’s players have an incredibly important role to play in promoting and growing the game from the grassroots right up to the professional level. They are unbelievable role models for female players of the future, and I am really looking forward to working closely with the Women’s Sevens and Wallaroos squads, as well as Lewis Holland and the Men’s Rugby Sevens team.
“For Super Rugby players, we talk all the time and we will be playing each of the other Australian teams twice a year now which will allow me plenty of opportunities to catch up face to face with the other Board Members and players around the country. It’s critically important that we continue to get buy-in from all players, and we can all continue to work together as a united group.
“I certainly think that players moving overseas is one of the most critical issues facing Australian Rugby at the moment, and the fact that everybody is concerned about the game’s financial standing doesn’t help that. We need to understand that improving the experience for all players here can actually go a long way to stopping that drain of talent overseas, and we can actually initiate meaningful change without having to spend huge amounts of money.
“Having played overseas myself I can understand that there are financial incentives to consider, but I also have the firsthand experience that the grass is not always greener on the other side. If we can make our high-performance environments here more supportive and holistic for players and their families and protect their off-field wellbeing, I think it will go a long way to changing the mindset of players as they head into contract negotiations.
Outgoing RUPA President Dean Mumm congratulated Fitzpatrick on his appointment, whilst reflecting upon his own tenure in the role.
“I’d like to sincerely congratulate Damien on his election as the new RUPA President and having played, trained and sat in a boardroom alongside him, I have no doubt he will excel in the role,” Mumm said.
“I have really enjoyed the opportunity to serve as RUPA President and have grown a lot from the experience myself. I must thank all RUPA members for having the faith in me to represent their best interests and I have no doubt that Fitzy will deliver on the faith that the players have now put in him by the excellence he will bring to the role.”
Wallaby Captain Michael Hooper said that Fitzpatrick’s appointment would allow RUPA to continue to build on the positive steps taken in the agreement of the new CBA.
“I think it’s a great appointment by the players,” Hooper said. “Damien is not only someone who is very capable of doing the role, but he’s also committed to constantly improving himself and wants to do everything that he can to place RUPA in a great position and to fight for the players.
“His holistic approach is a perfect fit for the role. He has had lots of different experiences and ups and downs throughout his Rugby career, so he is well versed in the life of a Rugby player and has a fantastic knowledge and understanding of the state of the game here and overseas.
“Most importantly, he is a hard worker who leads by example. He strives for constant improvement and has the ability to connect with all players on all levels, so those unique qualities will guide him well in this role and I’m extremely excited that he will represent all players moving forward.”
Alongside Fitzpatrick in joining the Board for the first time is Australian Men’s Rugby Sevens Captain Lewis Holland, who replaces the recently retired Ed Jenkins as the Men’s Rugby Sevens Player Director. Stephen Moore resigned from his Co-Opted Director position on the RUPA Board following the conclusion of his highly distinguished playing career in December with Mumm expected to be nominated as a Co-Opted Director in his place at the next RUPA Board Meeting.
Tom English, Bernard Foley and James Slipper have all been re-elected unopposed by their respective squads after reaching the end of their two-year terms, with Shannon Parry OAM and Scott Sio heading into the second year of their respective terms as RUPA Player Directors.
The RUPA Board of Directors is chaired by Bruce Hodgkinson SC, who is also joined by Co-Opted Directors Sally Fielke and Adam Wallace-Harrison, as well as RUPA Chief Executive Officer Ross Xenos.
Hodgkinson reflected on the time and service provided by both Jenkins and Moore following the RUPA Board Elections.
“The RUPA Board is richer for the experience of having both Ed and Stephen serve with aplomb throughout their respective terms,” Hodgkinson said.
“All the statistics and records aside, Ed’s legacy to Australian Sevens Rugby is arguably the most significant of any male player to have played the game and we look forward to following his progress and offering any assistance we can as he transitions into the next phase of his life.
“Stephen’s nine-year term on the RUPA Board is the longest by any player in history, and I think that truly exemplifies his commitment and dedication to improving the livelihood of Rugby players in Australia. His remarkable and highly distinguished career on the field is truly one of the greatest in Australian Rugby history, and we remain indebted to him for his forthrightness and unwavering regard for the wellbeing of all players.”
The RUPA Board Elections are held over a fourteen-day nomination period, with independent legal oversight from FCB Group. Any current player has the right to nominate a fellow Super Rugby Member or Sevens Member of RUPA to any of the available positions in accordance with the RUPA Constitution.
The full 12-person RUPA Board is:
- Chairman: Bruce Hodgkinson SC
- President: Damien Fitzpatrick
- Player Director, Brumbies: Scott Sio
- Player Director, Rebels: Tom English
- Player Director, Reds: James Slipper
- Player Director, Waratahs: Bernard Foley
- Player Director, Men’s Sevens: Lewis Holland
- Player Director, Women’s Sevens: Shannon Parry OAM
- Co-Opted Director: Sally Fielke
- Co-Opted Director: Adam Wallace-Harrison
- Co-Opted Director: To be ratified
- Chief Executive Officer: Ross Xenos
Please click here for more information on the RUPA Board.