‘This is the opportunity’: Rugby Australia announces historic funding investment in women’s game


Rugby Australia is hoping to replicate the national women’s sevens program’s success in the women’s 15-a-side game, with the governing body tipping in an additional $3 million ahead of next year’s World Cup in England.

The increased investment will see women’s fifteens players paid more over the next two years and represents an increase of 61 per cent over 2023, which itself saw an increase of 60 per cent from 2022.

Indeed, some Wallaroos players have been offered a historic two-year contract, while the number of top-tier contracts will increase from 15 to 23.

Across three tiers of contracts, a total of 45 players (ten more than 2023) will be offered contracts with the highest paid players to earn up to $72,458. Those numbers don’t include additional player payments made by Super Rugby clubs.

Michaela Leonard celebrates after the Wallaroos’ WXV1 win over France at Forsyth Barr Stadium on October 28, 2023 in Dunedin. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

At a minimum, all Super Rugby women’s players will continue to receive an RA-funded $4,000 payment in addition to any club payments for the five-round competition, which doesn’t include the two-week finals campaign.

The upsurge in women’s contracts comes after several Wallaroos stars slammed Rugby Australia for failing to invest in the game and gender bias last August.

The ugly episode, which was played out across social media, came on the eve of RA appointing Jaime Fernandez as their new high-performance manager.

His appointment has been widely applauded within the playing ranks, with the former Olympian since overseeing the process to name former England captain Jo Yapp as the Wallaroos’ head coach.

Yapp will spearhead the Wallaroos’ World Cup campaign, with the tournament viewed as a significant step on the road to hosting the 2029 tournament.

Jo Yapp will lead the Wallaroos through to next year’s World Cup in England. (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images for Barbarians)

The Wallaroos showed what they were capable of last spring, as Jay Tregonning’s side claimed an upset win over France, before building on the momentum by beating Wales to record back-to-back wins in New Zealand.

RA doesn’t have to look far to know the important role women can play in the game, with their sevens side the favourites to emulate the success of the Rio Olympics in Paris later this year.

“We have identified Rugby Australia’s Sevens program as the benchmark for us to emulate, as one of the most elite full-time and fully professional women’s sports programs in the country – which has achieved remarkable success for more than a decade,” RA chief executive Phil Waugh said.

“We saw a significant increase in participation among women and girls last year, and much of that was in Sevens.

“This followed an unprecedented 2022 when our Women’s Sevens team won all three major trophies on offer, proving that success can genuinely drive interest and participation – and this is the opportunity with Women’s XVs.

“We will continue to grow the women’s game in a sustainable and responsible way – we still have a lot of work to do, but the increase in our commitment over the last two years shows our determination to continue pushing forward.”

Fernandez said the investment in the women’s game was crucial ahead of the historic event in 2029.

“Rugby Australia is continuing to invest in Women’s Rugby – in 2023 we saw an additional $2 million of funding, we appointed the first full-time head coach of the Wallaroos, and the first dedicated women’s high performance manager,” the former Olympic rower turned high performance specialist said.

“In 2024, we will see further increased player payments, multi-year contracts, and an increase in the number of the highest tier of contracts.

“Significantly, we are seeing Super Rugby clubs making similar commitments to the women’s game, with increases in investment, and hiring of more dedicated staff within their women’s programs.

“This investment and the structure that we are building has been developed to build a critical mass and retention of key players – steps that will support an increase in training hours and time spent together as a team, which we believe will lead to greater success at international level.

“Naturally, we are focused on the next Rugby World Cup in England in 2025, however this is part of a strategy to build a sustainable model that will deliver a highly competitive performance at our home World Cup in 2029.

“We have loaded our Player Agreements towards the Tier 1 and Tier 2 categories, with most contracts at the highest tier tabled for two years to build stability for 2025.”

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