Queensland Reds trio's 'disappointing' move flouts 'mateship, accountability'

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Reds stand down trio over pay-cut refusal (0:47)

The Queensland Reds stood down Izack Rodda, Harry Hockings and Isaac Lucas after they refused to accept a pay reduction. (0:47)

Australia's director of rugby Scott Johnson has expressed his disappointment at the position taken by Izack Rodda, Isaac Lucas and Harry Hockings, as all three would have had an opportunity to push their Wallabies claims in the coming months.

Australian rugby was thrust into further chaos on Monday morning when the Queensland Reds trio were stood down after they had failed to agree to salary cuts negotiated by the Rugby Union Players Association [RUPA] and had also refused to register for the Australian Government's JobKeeper scheme.

Just how Reds coach Brad Thorn reacts will carry plenty of intrigue, particularly given how he has responded when other players have acted outside the best interests of the team. Thorn has also invested heavily in a policy of youth since taking charge at Ballymore, and was at last seeing some rewards for his overhaul just before Super Rugby was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rodda, 23, has already proven himself a key Wallabies forward, while both Hockings and Lucas are firmly on the national selectors' radar, particularly in the longer term, given they are both just 21 years of age.

"If we're talking about disappointment, they're three guys of national interest," Johnson told reporters on Monday morning. "Two of them we signed long contracts for and the third ... he had an offer on the table for an extensive period.

"So it's disappointing because they're front of mind when it comes to the bigger picture; we have a high respect for them as rugby players and we really think that they were part of the solution in the future going forward.

"We showed commitment from our end because we value their talent; so that's where the disappointment lies for me because we had a good plan going in place...they've got a few things to work out themselves and hopefully it gets resolved in a positive light."

Queensland Rugby Union chief executive David Hanham wouldn't be drawn on the influence of the players' agent, Anthony Picone, despite the fact the Reds had experienced problematic negotiations with Picone in the past.

But he also couldn't hide his disappointment at the players' move, which has seen them seek legal counsel, saying their failure to agree to salary cuts defied the franchise's core values of accountability, mateship and care.

"Personally, when you put a lot of time and effort into your players at a young age, there are a lot of blood, sweat and tears that go into it," Hanham said. "And I'm probably not just talking personally but also the players and the coaching staff around, there's a lot of effort that goes into it.

"They're good young men, I've spoken to them a number of times and clearly they're a part of our long-term plans. So for us, it was a surprise to receive that feedback that they were going to take that position, and that's where the disappointment really comes from.

"I think you come back to our values with the team; it's about mateship, it's about accountability, it's about resilience, it's about care; care for the cause. We've all got to care here to see the Reds be a successful football program and we've been working hard on that, and also we represent the game of rugby in the state.

"So when you put your heart and soul into it, clearly people that are a part of that, they want to be on that journey. And others obviously make a decision not to be."

Hanham said he had spoken with a "disappointed" Reds captain Liam Wright while the rest of the squad would be briefed later on Monday.

The trio's move is yet another blow to rugby's image at a time when things were just starting to turn around.

Following the resignation of Raelene Castle and Anthony Wiggs decision to step down from the board, RA had unveiled Rob Clarke as an interim CEO and on Friday confirmed Hamish McLennan would join the board next month and take on the role as chairman.

RA is also edging closer to confirming its plans for a domestic Super Rugby competition, which will likely kick-off in early July, in which Johnson said all players would have a clean slate to impress new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie.

In referencing a "wider" Wallabies squad selected across the opening seven rounds of Super Rugby, Johnson said form in the reimagined domestic competition would carry greater weight.

"For me, performance will determine Wallabies selection," Johnson said. "Whilst there is a group selected, as I have alluded to on many occasions, there's a fact that that's a little bit for today and a little for tomorrow.

"But for Wallabies selection it will be performance on the pitch, as soon as we're on the pitch, you play well you put your hand up for selection. It's a clean sheet that we all get in and the best performers get in."