Rugby Australia posts $8.7m surplus as player hunt begins

Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan remains adamant there are “a lot” of NRL players keen to switch codes and his his sport is “on the rise again” after a $35m turnaround.

At its annual general meeting on Wednesday, RA revealed a surplus of $8.2m, the first surplus in four years, after suffering a $27.1m deficit just two years ago moving McLennan to suggest rugby is on an “even keel” with the NRL.

Despite the Wallabies enduring one of their worst 12 months in decades on-field under sacked former coach Dave Rennie, and ongoing battles for mainstream cut-through for the Super Rugby Pacific competition, McLennan was beaming at the result.

“The last two years have been a wild ride for us – and with the removal of Covid restrictions, we were able to return to a full year of rugby and restore some normality in the business,” McLennan said.

“To turn this thing around in such a short time is a great testament to Andy (RA chief executive Andy Marinos) and the team at Rugby Australia as well as the resilience of our game – and with the promise of a Lions tour in two years, as well as home Rugby World Cups in 2027 and 2029, Rugby is very much on the rise again.”

After signing Eddie Jones as Wallabies coach for a second time, RA is on a massive recruitment drive and NRL targets are the main objective.

Having already sealed a deal with Sydney Roosters young star Joseph Suaalii, who will join rugby next year on a $4.8m deal, Brisbane star Payne Haas tops a “hit list” of targets that McLennan is only too happy to talk about.

“I wouldn‘t overstate what happens with the money but there are a lot of league players that have reached out to us,” McLennan said.

“We‘re the first to say league is a great game but they want something different with rugby union.

“We‘ll see in due course whether it’s right for them and for us. There’s not going to be 20 players we poach or try and bring back. The ones we’ve talked about have played union during their high school years and we think there is a role for them here in our game.

“We just see that we have lost a lot of very good union players to league over the years and they‘ve been poaching our talent pool.

“They squeal when we take one or two of them back. We’ve been very strategic. It’s a free market. It’s good for the players.”

The RA chairman is ready to go on the hunt after recording a $30.6m increase in revenue in 2022, largely thanks to a return to a full season of match activity and events, with 265,380 people attending six Wallabies Tests.

Marinos said the sport was on the “cusp of catastrophe”, making the recovery that much more positive.

“There can be no doubt about how deep a hole rugby was in as a result of the pandemic – we were genuinely on the cusp of catastrophe,” he said.

“To be able to turn things around and return a surplus in just two years is a tremendous testament to the team at RA that turn up and do everything they can for the game of rugby every day.

“It has been a real grind.”

Originally published as After being on the ‘cusp of a catastrophe’ Rugby Australia has posted its first surplus in four years

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