It has been a horrid few months for the Wallabies, and reports surfacing in the Australian press yesterday will have done nothing to raise union fans’ spirits. Ben Mowen, who captained the national team just three weeks ago after having made an impressive debut over the summer against the Lions, is reportedly considering walking away from the national set-up over a pay dispute.
Should he leave, he will do so in the middle of the season next year to take up a lucrative contract with a French side (probably Toulon, who always seem a little light in the back-row…). Aside from the obvious repercussions for the national team, it would be a huge blow for his franchise the Brumbies, as they would face losing their coach and captain in a very short period – a crisis that would threaten to undermine all the good work White and Mowen have done over the past few seasons.
The dispute is reported to stem from Mowen not receiving a top-up contract from the ARU, in spite of being a regular starter in the team, not to mention captaining them against Argentina. In Mowen’s deal with the Brumbies he was promised an ARU top-up, but the cash-strapped union are reportedly withholding it as part of their new initiative to limit top-ups to players that have played for the Wallabies for two years or more.
Mowen’s frustration is partly understandable, given the way the ARU threw cash at code-hopper Israel Folau to convince him to stay in union. The ARU paid Folau a top-up contract to reject league and play union after he left the AFL, and he received a significant upgrade when he renegotiated his contract in late August – despite having played just five Tests. They did the same with ex-league players Lote Tuqiri, Wendell Sailor and Mat Rogers.
Mowen confirmed he had no deal with the ARU (just the Brumbies) but referred the matter to his manager David Shand, who outlined his client’s predicament.
“He signed with the Brumbies, who have been good, now we’re trying to get the ARU part of the deal done,” Shand told The Herald Sun.
Asked if there had been approaches by European clubs, Shand replied: “Of course, for the player the calibre of Ben who has captained his country.”
The ARU pays players $14,000 per test match, which it considers sufficient. Mowen apparently disagrees, and has grown frustrated with the lack of progress despite long-running talks. If Mowen were to appear in all 14 tests this year, he would earn $196,000 from those matches alone – on top of his Super Rugby deal.
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images