Shannon Parry OAM, Co-Captain of the Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens team and Captain of the Wallaroos, has heralded the inclusion of women’s Rugby in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) for the very first time.
The Rugby Union Players’ Association (RUPA) and Rugby Australia (RA) today revealed that they agreed to terms on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which came into effect on January 1st, 2018.
The inclusion within the Agreement of the Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens team, alongside their male counterparts and Super Rugby contemporaries as full-time professionals, comes hot on the heels of remarkable growth for the code in the aftermath of the Gold Medal winning campaign at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Pay parity has been achieved through the implementation of a base, entry-level full-time wage across both genders and formats of the code, while an industry-leading Pregnancy Policy will also be included within the CBA.
The Wallaroos, meanwhile, will for the first time ever be guaranteed match payments and squad assembly fees as semi-professional athletes, helping to offset the challenges and sacrifices associated with taking time away from work and family responsibilities in order to represent their country.
“Today is real landmark moment for women’s Rugby in Australia, to not only be included in the CBA for the first time and get the women’s game heading in the right direction, but to also achieve pay parity and have the same entry level for both Rugby Sevens and Super Rugby.
"It truly is a great day for women’s sport,” Parry said.
“Being an elder stateswoman of the Sevens team, I have seen the sport progress from an amateur level to now being a squad of fully-fledged professional athletes. To now have a stake in the players’ 29% share of revenue is great for the women’s game, and to be included in the entire CBA is fantastic. On the back of Olympic success in Rio the sport has seen significant growth in female participation rates, and for us as role models we need to continue to do what we can to look after the longevity of the women’s game whilst taking advantage of the opportunities presented by this CBA.”
“Without the support of RUPA and Rugby Australia (RA), we simply wouldn’t have won a Gold Medal in Rio and the women’s game wouldn’t be on the pedestal it is now. We are very grateful, and we know that this CBA wouldn’t have gone through without the support of all players and the RUPA Board, and obviously with the agreement from RA.”
Parry, who made her Rugby Sevens debut for Australia in 2013 and has served as a RUPA Board Director since June 2014, has also represented the Wallaroos at the Women’s Rugby World Cup on three occasions (2010, 2014 & 2017).
Whilst playing fifteen-a-side women’s Rugby is yet to graduate to a professional level, this CBA sees Australian representatives benefit from the introduction of mandatory payments and expenses whenever they represent their country or gather in camp to prepare to do so.
“The Wallaroos have historically put in so much time and work for very little financial compensation ” Parry said.
“It is always a huge honour to be able to represent your country, but when you have to take leave off work without pay for so long (like at the Women’s Rugby World Cup) it does definitely put a significant dent in your pocket.
“To offset that with an appropriate match payment and an allowance while on tour will enable us to be able to have the best Aussie players competing on the world stage for the Wallaroos. We are very lucky to be included in the CBA in that regard as well.”
Parry praised the introduction of the Pregnancy Policy and pointed to the example of a teammate as evidence that starting a family doesn’t necessarily diminish your ability to excel on the field.
“The implementation of such a ground-breaking Pregnancy Policy is really important,” she said. “We’re in such a different sport to most female athletes in terms of the physicality of the game, but to make sure you’re not prevented from wanting to have children and a family is vital.
“To have the security of being able to return to your contract gives our squad a sense that the door will always be open, and as we’ve seen with (Gold Medal winner and mother of two) Nicole Beck there is absolutely no reason why you can’t come back and compete at the highest level after having children.”
Finally, Parry praised changes to player leave and rest which will be consistent across all of the game’s professional players, as well as contracting changes and a share of tournament winning bonuses specifically tailored for both Men’s and Women’s Rugby Sevens.
“I think the contracting model will work a lot better for Rugby Sevens in terms of not being contracted from January to December, but now being more aligned with our season,” she said.
“Now players signed at the beginning of pre-season can actually be with us for the entire campaign and not be chasing their tails for the second half of the season, and for us moving forward it is a great model. To be guaranteed a minimum of 18 fully contracted players as of the end of this year is fantastic, and sets us up for some key benchmark tournaments culminating with the next Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.
“The added incentive of a share in winning bonuses at tournaments gives you that extra motivation to get into the team and compete for it, and that will only increase competition among the group which is such a good thing.
“The clarity around our leave and the time off we get is really important for us as a squad, and to have a committed day off, week in, week out, is vital for getting our work and life balance right.
“We have been pushing really hard with RUPA to secure that, as we have a lot of young girls in the squad who are trying to ensure that they are looking at life outside of Rugby. We’ve got a clear schedule moving forward which also allows us to plan when we want to get away and recharge the batteries, which is really important.”
Among the boom within women’s sport in Australia, Parry said that Rugby can now absolutely position itself as the sport of choice for women who would like to pursue representative honours and a career in the game.
“This CBA is a huge step forward and positions us above so many other female codes in regards to your minimum entitlements, and I think that coupled with the opportunity to go to the Olympic Games and compete all over the globe in tournaments in both Rugby Sevens and for the Wallaroos makes it difficult for many other sports to compete.
“We’re really trying to entice as many women as possible to come and give our game a go, and this CBA gives them to security to commit to Rugby and to give it their best shot.”