Should Australian rugby implement a ‘sabbatical’ system to retain talent?




In my last article, I tried to outline a scenario of how we can keep talent in Australia.

As most of you have answered, it’s almost a lost cause due to the thriving overseas markets and the global appeal of rugby union.

Young talents are slipping through our fingers.

Just a week ago, Tom Banks was offered over $1 million to go to Japanese rugby. He is undoubtedly a brilliant Super Rugby player, but has not been an authority on the international stage.

This makes Banks a prime candidate for club rugby in Japan and/or Europe.

Although this is a concern, given that fullback is a position in Australia where no one has defined it, we have depth.

The biggest concern is age and the potential for young players to be lured overseas.

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, the sabbatical needs to kick in, but not necessarily just for the big names, but for the young ones.

Over the past week, Noah Lolesio and Fraser McReight have been courted with offers from abroad, with Japanese rugby being the main lure.

These are the athletes we need to retain.

Rugby union offers so much more money globally than the NRL – it’s crazy. And that’s the biggest threat to the code in Australia.

If you’re young and you get an offer of $700,000 to $1.3 million a year, you’d be crazy not to accept it.

Both McReight and Lolesio are players of the future for Australian rugby. Both have had a taste of international rugby and are potential poster boys for the code in the future.

However, neither is a fixture for Rugby World Cup 2023 given the resources they have.

For Lolesio, he has the recently revived Quade Cooper and James O’Connor in his path, and Frasier has Wallaby captain Michael Hooper.

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

They can build an extended squad for the World Cup but are unlikely to play unless injuries take their toll.

With that in mind, it’s a classic case of a sabbatical.

If RA were to allow them to sign with their respective Japanese clubs and pay them an extra $100,000 a year for two years, but guarantee them after two years for the Wallabies with maybe $500,000 to $750,000 for another two years, they are eligible beyond 2023 and who knows maybe have the money to secure them on higher wages given the potential upside for RA with the Lions tour, Rugby World Cup and fairness.

There is always an argument for injury, of course, however, it is a risk in any sport.

In the 90s, players went overseas in their twilight years to earn a reasonable coin. These days, it’s too lucrative to ignore.

Stan Sport’s Sean Maloney joins The Roar experts Brett McKay and Harry Jones for this week’s edition of The Roar Rugby podcast. Stream it here or like and subscribe in the podcast app of your choice.

Rugby Australia needs to think outside the box: let them go for two years, back to Australia for two years. It’s a four-year investment. Considering they’ve been produced by the Australian system for 5-7 years, I think it’s a risk worth taking.

Let the youngsters explore, let them grow up with world-class players from other countries.

They will come back better and the Wallabies could still be world champions, given the depth of talent courted overseas.

We clearly have the talent, we just can’t compete.

Let young people enjoy rugby as a global game and encourage it, but keep them for the longer term. Let them know they are wanted.




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