Rugby Australia responds to criticism from Wallaroos as players avoid sanctions

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Rugby Australia admits it has a “way to go” when it comes to greater investment in women’s rugby after making plans to sit down with disgruntled Wallaroos players following a coordinated social media campaign for better pay and treatment.

Yet despite being severe backlash from some of Australian rugby’s best female XVs players, RA has no plans to sanction Wallaroos stars who have spoken out against their employer in public forums.

A number of Wallaroos players spoke out on Sunday against RA following revelations that some partners of Wallabies players were flown to Sydney – the trip was funded by RA – to farewell the footballers last week before the World Cup in France.

A group of Wallaroos players posted a statement to their respective social media pages saying there was a clear disparity between funding in the men’s and women’s programs.

RA and the Rugby Union Players’ Association were locked in meetings on Monday.

In a statement issued on Monday, RA vowed to continue dialogue with frustrated players and acknowledged that improvements could be made in the future. Australia’s best female XVs players do not get paid as well as their New Zealand and English counterparts.

The governing body did not address specific claims or complaints from players, instead wishing to deal with the matter behind closed doors.

“We are taking steps towards a fully professional future for the Wallaroos and investing more broadly in women’s rugby across national and community competitions – and we know we have a way to go,” read an RA statement.

Grace Hamilton (centre) was among the Wallaroos who vented their frustrations.Credit: Getty

“Rugby Australia will continue to involve the Wallaroos playing group, through RUPA, in all planning and developments regarding investment in women’s rugby.

“In line with RA’s commitment to incorporate players on this journey, RA will continue to meet with the elected Super W representatives from each Super W team, the RUPA women’s player director, and the Wallaroos leadership group to listen and work together, to support our female athletes and their coaching and support teams.”

RUPA chief executive Justin Harrison did not return calls.

RA sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said there was no plan to sanction players for criticising the governing body, which is technically a breach of contract.

RA has reached out to players and would like to meet with them as soon as possible.

Wallaroos star Georgie Friedrichs called on RA chief executive Phil Waugh to bridge the gap when it came to funding of the women’s game. RA has stated its intention to have Wallaroos players on full-time contracts by 2025, four years out from a home World Cup.

“The man in charge of Australian Rugby needs to step up and make some changes, before history remembers him as a villain, not as a saviour. Do better Rugby Australia,” Friedrichs wrote on social media.

“[Wallabies coach Eddie Jones] has more than six coaches in his program – the Wallaroos coach [Jay Tregonning] isn’t even full-time. The Matildas have shown the world’s hunger for elite female sport.”

The joint statement released by players was widely shared and liked by many fellow athletes.

“You told us flying anything beyond economy was too costly. Then you flew the Wallabies business class on a trip shorter than ours,” the letter reads.

“You told us full-time contracts were in the pipeline, that there wasn’t enough money to keep the Men in the game, let alone us. Then you paid $5 million for an NRL player.

“You said our program would go professional, and our coach would be full-time. How many coaches has Eddie taken to the World Cup? You continually say we don’t have enough resources and yet we all saw the World Cup send off for the Wallabies.”

Former Wallaby and rugby commentator Drew Mitchell has thrown his support behind the campaign.

“A strong, united response from our professional female rugby players over the weekend,” Mitchell wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “They need to be heard, to be seen and ultimately, valued. @RugbyAU officials should treat this as a priority.”

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