Contract negotiations for deals beginning next year have stalled because NSW Rugby general manager Tim Rapp and head coach Rob Penney are in the dark as to how much less they will have to spend.
For Penney, who has been at NSW for less than a year, it wouldn’t be any easy pill to swallow given he all but inherited his roster when taking over from Daryl Gibson.
Davis confirmed the NSW board was in talks with high-performance staff about what parameters they could work in financially, but made it clear the glory days were over. He said a dollar figure was still to be worked through.
“Until we get certainty of income, we’ve got to be conservative in the way we spend the resources we’ve got,” Davis said. “Hopefully there will be rivers of gold and more money so we can contract departing players at more competitive rates, but this whole landscape has changed. The game can no longer afford the high levels of player payments that were traditionally part of the rugby environment.
“If you’re on a million bucks, we just don’t have that money any more. We’re all going to have to come to grips with that.
“It’s balancing act … we don’t want to find we’ve contracted all our players and find the club goes broke in January but, by the same token, we want to make sure we’re competitive and we’ve got the best team available to put on the paddock.
“It’s tension between economics and a competitive team that’s front and centre of our decision making at the moment. There’s no easy answer. It’s an environment where we don’t know where the money is coming from going forward.
“We’re going through the list of who we want to retain. It’s about working out how we allocate those scarce dollars. It’s not going to be as it was. You’d normally run yourself up to the salary cap and Bob’s your uncle and everyone gets a pay increase.”
RA is yet to a secure a broadcast deal for next year, while the Rugby Union Players Association will sit down shortly to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. Players took a 60 per cent pay cut when COVID-19 brought an end to Super Rugby and then agreed to a 30 per cent reduction of their initial salaries from July 1 until September 30.
Davis suggested a solution to the game’s financial woes was to reduce the number of Super Rugby contracted players. “That’s good for those who make the cut, not for those who don’t,” he said.
Regardless of contract delays, NSW players have started to click on the field and will relish an extra day’s preparation ahead of next weekend’s blockbuster clash with the Brumbies.
A win in the nation’s capital would all but secure a finals spot for the Waratahs, who lost three of their first four games in the new competition.
Their 20-point victory over the Force could’ve been even bigger had a couple of tries not been disallowed but back-to-back wins for the first time in 17 months has NSW primed to exact revenge over the Brumbies after a one-point loss in Sydney in round three.
Tom Decent is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald