Wallabies coach’s selfless act for struggling code
WALLABIES coach Dave Rennie says he could not accept being on full pay while players and Rugby Australia staff took wage cuts, which is why he sacrificed $67,500 before even formally starting the job.
In a phone call with interim RA chief Rob Clarke a fortnight ago, Rennie offered to take a 30 per cent pay cut on his annual $900,000 salary until September 30, despite the rest of the RA executive team only take five per cent cuts.
Rennie had already done hours of work without pay since leaving Scottish club Glasgow, and has now revealed why he gave up such a vast amount of money.
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"Everyone else had taken a haircut, so I can't come in and be on full whack," Rennie said.
"My assumption was that it was always going to happen, I'd spoken to Johno (RA director of rugby Scott Johnson) about it previously, I'd spoken to Raelene (former RA boss Raelene Castle). Because technically I'm not starting until July 1, we hadn't put anything in concrete.
"Rob's thinking was they'd been through all this process, up til then I'd done quite a bit of work but I was getting 100 per cent of nothing, so whether the mindset was they'd been working through these issues over the past couple of months and I wasn't actually part of that, I'm not sure.
"But Rob and I hadn't actually had a chance to talk. There was an assumption from me that that was going to happen anyway, so that was quickly rectified."
And Rennie's sacrifice will be welcomed as RA faces an increasingly difficult task of securing a broadcast deal beyond this year, after the FFA had their remaining three-year deal with Fox Sports terminated, and replaced by a one-year deal for 2021 that has dipped in value from $57 million to $32 million.
Fox Sports views rugby and football in similar vein. They have signed rights to RA's revamped 2020 Super Rugby AU tournament to start July 3 and run through to September, however remain cool on any prospect of a longer term broadcast deal for rugby due to financial strain and low ratings.
Optus was touted as a potential suitor but have indicated they're not interested, while the free-to-air networks are making cuts to live sport investment under tremendous strain from the COVID-19 affected advertising market.
Rennie proposed the option of Australian and Kiwi players signing for teams from rival nations, an idea that would surely boost the interest level of the competition, but also help keep the best talent in the southern hemisphere amid unprecedented pressure from rich European clubs.
"My view is if we had a Wallaby playing for the Blues, we get to see him playing against the best Aussies and from a selection point of view, that makes sense that you'd be able to do that," Rennie said.
"I'm not a big fan of trying to pluck guys out of France, we've got no influence on how they train and how they prepare."
Rennie's first task will be the most daunting of all; having to defeat the All Blacks three times in one year under a revised four-Test plan for the Bledisloe Cup.
"What we know is that we should get to play the All Blacks a number of times this year if nothing else, and that is a great introduction for us," Rennie said.
"For me that is pretty exciting, normally the best side in the world, so it's a really good gauge for us of where we need to be.
"The more times we play the All Blacks the better. We haven't had a lot of success against them the last 15 or so years and we have to put ourselves under pressure against the best."
Just who will lead the Wallabies out in those games remains a mystery, with Rennie saying incumbent Michael Hooper is not guaranteed the captaincy.
"We haven't spoken about captaincy at all," he said.
"I've spoken to Hoops a lot on various things but all we've talked about at the moment is earning the right to play.
"So, it's about playing well enough to win the jersey and then we'll sort out who captain will be.
"Clearly he's not doing it at the Waratahs and that's been good for his game to be honest, I think he's played really well.
"He's still leading no doubt, just hasn't got the 'c' next to his name.
"He's a strong contender for captain but we haven't firmed up any decisions around that and we'll work out what the team is first and then we'll select the captain but there's lots of good leaders in amongst that group."
ONE LESS HEADACHE FOR TAHS AS HANIGAN CLEARED TO PLAY - Julian Linden
Self-isolating was the easy part for Waratahs' backrower Ned Hanigan during the coronavirus lockdown.
The tricky part was getting his mind right after he had been dropped from the Wallabies last year and sidelined for the first half of 2020 because of recurring headaches.
The solution to both problems was simpler than he imagined.
Raised on a beef cattle farm near Coonamble on the NSW central-western plains, he just went back home for six weeks and did what he has always done, rolled up his sleeves and helped his folks take care of their herd.
"We've been living in isolation out there for years, so it was really just the same day to day stuff," Hanigan said.
"Dad put me straight to work and the time just flew by. Everything's sweet now so I'm ready to get stuck in and go full throttle."
Hanigan is back training with the Waratahs and has been cleared to start playing again when the Australian domestic Super Rugby competition resumes next month, with NSW opening the revamped tournament away to the Reds.
Hanigan missed the first half of the season after he was concussed while playing in a trial match in January.
He felt well enough to play straight away but the pounding headaches kept coming back so he was ordered to stay on the sidelines as a precaution until his migraines disappeared.
"I needed to go an extended period of time without any headaches and that just never happened for me because it came right at the start of the season," he said.
"I was actually sweet to go when the corona came along so I was just able to rest a lot longer and I haven't had any symptoms since.
"I've been back in full contact training, doing all the defensive drills and ruck drills and all that sort of stuff you usually do and I just can't bloody wait to get going again."
The return of the durable Hanigan is a welcome boost for a Waratahs squad that desperately needs a lift after a dismal start to 2020.
It is also a chance for Hanigan to push his own claims for a return to the Wallabies after being discarded from last year's World Cup squad.
Still only 25, Hanigan has already made 20 test appearances for Australia but his omission from the biggest tournament in the sport forced him to re-evaluate his own game so he has trained harder than ever, adding more muscle and strength in order to impose himself in the physical battles upfront.
"I was a bit disappointed of course but I suppose the learning from that is don't ever get complacent, always stay hungry and keep working on your trade," he said.
"It's been a while but I think that just gets you frothing at the bit.
"I haven't even thought about how many games I've missed and I haven't had any doubts whether I can pick up from where I left off, it's just a matter of getting out there and getting stuck into it.
"We've all got an opportunity to hit the button again and re-set but I'm not thinking about the longer term stuff yet because my goal right now is just to get back on the paddock. Can't wait."