Rebels play down boycott threat
NEWS: Melbourne Rebels boss Baden Stephenson has doused any suggestion of a Super Rugby boycott from his players, guaranteeing they are all locked in for what could be more than a fortnight away from home to relaunch the season.
The Rebels will relocate to Canberra on Friday to ensure player safety after a surge in COVID-19 cases in Victoria.
They will play the Brumbies on July 4 as part of the new five-team Super Rugby AU and were set to return home to host the Queensland Reds on July 10.
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That clash is instead likely to take place in Sydney or Canberra, with Rugby Australia to work with broadcasters and respective health authorities in the next 48 hours and settle on a plan.
Stephenson says the playing group are comfortable with that, denying reports that some were considering staying put in Melbourne as the latest round of pay negotiations played out.
Currently on an average 60 per cent pay cut, players were reportedly unhappy to be asked to take a revise d 40 per cent hit for the remainder of the year now that a broadcast deal had been struck.
Executives, including new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, however will take 30 per cent cuts for the remainder of the year, reports indicating players would be comfortable with a similar sacrifice.
Rugby Australia had not been advised of proposed strike action from the Rugby Union Players’ Association though, Stephenson confident talks had been constructive on Thursday but annoyed by the insinuations of the claim.
“Our leaders [captain] Dane Haylett-Petty and [RUPA representative] Matt Toomua have been really strong leaders throughout this,” the CEO told AAP.
“They speak transparently to our executive and [coach] Dave Wessels rang them last night to ask if there were any challenge s and issues and both said there was never any communication [of a boycott],”
Rugby Australia recently made 47 full-time employees redundant, with those remaining on reduced hours or pay and the rest returning in October on 95 percent of their normal wage.
“I was a little bit disappointed about how the perception of that comment may have made our players look.
“They’re super excited to get back playing and I think a positive outcome will come from the negotiations.”
The Rebels will train out of the Australian Defence Force facilities in Canberra, while Stephenson said he would also draw on his local knowledge after a long stint as head coach of the Tuggeranong Vikings that began more than 20 years ago.
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