UPDATE 1-Rugby-Reds trio released after refusing coronavirus pay cuts

UPDATE 1-Rugby-Reds trio released after refusing coronavirus pay cuts

Reuters  | May 23, 2020 13:42

UPDATE 1-Rugby-Reds trio released after refusing coronavirus pay cuts

(recasts, adds details, quotes after media conference)

SYDNEY, May 23 (Reuters) - Rugby Australia do not expect a rush of players to walk away from their contracts after they agreed to release Wallabies lock Izack Rodda and two of his Queensland Reds team mates who refused to take pay cuts during the COVID-19 shutdown.

Rodda, flyhalf Isaac Lucas and lock Harry Hockings, were stood down by the Reds last Monday for refusing to accept the pay cuts and their agent said on Friday they had sought termination of their contracts. Australia (RA) interim chief executive Rob Clarke said they had released the trio on Saturday, but he doubted the decision would set a precedent for other players to demand a release.

"We haven't had any indication from any other players that they are looking beyond our shores," Clarke said in a conference call with reporters. "We understand the challenges the players are going through, it's no different from the staff.

"But ... every single business in this country and around the world are facing the same decisions (and) other rugby economies are suffering as much as we are.

"I suspect ... players thinking this is a ticket to a golden pot will be sorely disappointed."

RA implemented a 60% pay cut for its players last month after tense negotiations with the Rugby Union Players' Association amid the governing body's financial struggles that have been exacerbated by the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Almost 190 players accepted the pay cuts, while RA also furloughed about 75% of its staff in March.

Clarke said the RA had ruled out taking legal action against the trio as it was always "the last resort".

The organisation fought a costly legal battle with former Wallabies fullback Israel Folau last year after he had his contract torn up for posting a controversial meme on social media. Picone, who represents the three players, said on Friday they were just trying to protect their livelihood.

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