Thorn annoyed by prospect of Wallaby's return
SPOTLIGHT: Brad Thorn has been riled by the prospect of Izack Rodda’s Australian rugby return less than a year after he left the Queensland Reds over a pay dispute.
The 25-Test Wallabies lock and teammates Harry Hockings and Isaac Lucas refused to agree to periodic 60 percent pay cuts accepted by every other Australian Super Rugby player while the competition was suspended due to COVID-19 last May.
As one of Rugby Australia’s highest-paid players, Rodda had the option to take a one-season sabbatical to recoup lost wages while still retain his national contract.
Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper did just that and is currently playing in Japan, but Rodda’s RA contract was torn up as he headed to France for a lucrative deal with Lyon, which expires in July.
But the 24-year-old could return to a Super Rugby rival at the same time as Hooper, albeit without the Rugby Australia top-up deal and on less than half the potential $1 million a season offer he could attract in Europe.
“It was disappointing when it happened and disappointing to hear that [he may be back] as well, less than 12 months after the situation occurred,” Reds coach and former international lock Thorn said.
“Us at Queensland Rugby wouldn’t agree with it.
“You’ve got a global pandemic, everyone has suffered, players took pay cuts, guys were on JobKeeper.
“You don’t dislike that person, but the whole game suffered here … it was hard yakka and a lot of people made sacrifices, so that doesn’t align with our values.”
Depth at lock was one issue highlighted by incoming Wallabies coach Dave Rennie last season and director of rugby Scott Johnson was frustrated to lose the talented Rodda over an issue he believed could have been reconciled.
After a season in France they will happily welcome him back into the fold, with the bargain price set and Rodda effectively able to choose between reported suitors Waratahs, Melbourne Rebels and frontrunners Western Force if he wishes to return.
The Force were keen on Rodda’s services before he opted to head offshore, with Force coach Tim Sampson on Thursday admitting they were still interested.
“No discussion has been [had] for a while now; we spoke to Izack leading into Super Rugby AU last year and it didn’t come off and he went to France,” Sampson said.
“I think besides his previous club, all clubs will be interested in someone like Izack … we’ve seen the volume of second-rowers that have left Australian shores over the past few years.”
But Thorn, who insists reports of bad blood between the pair were off the mark, said concerns about the country’s lack of depth ahead of the 2023 World Cup may be premature.
“It’s having your cake and eating it, you know,” Thorn said of the precedent set by any player taking an overseas deal but returning to Australia ahead of a major tournament.
“It’s in Rugby Australia’s hands. but I just think you’ve got Angus Blyth, young Seru [Uru], Lukhan [Salakaia-Loto] here at the Reds, Cadeyrn Neville, Darcy Swain at the Brumbies and in Melbourne Trevor Hosea and others I haven’t mentioned.
“There’s talent here; you can always bring it back but they’re here, staying here and working hard.”