MELBOURNE : Australia's top women rugby players will be able to earn up to A$52,000 ($34,500) per year under the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) running through to 2026.
Governing body Rugby Australia (RA) said up to 35 players will be contracted across three tiers, with the potential to earn between A$30,000 and A$52,000 for participation in both the national Wallaroos squad and in Super W, the nation's top women's club competition.
All players will receive an RA-funded minimum payment of A$4,000 in addition to club payments for playing in Super W, which consists of five rounds of matches plus finals.
"Whilst this investment is an improvement on what we have been able to do in the past, this is just the first step in our commitment to continued investment to professionalise the women’s game in a sustainable and hopefully very successful way," RA boss Andy Marinos said in a statement on Thursday.
Australia's payment scheme pales in comparison to New Zealand, where some 40 contracted women players earn between NZ$70,000-NZ$130,000 ($43,200-$80,200).
Players in England's national squad earn from 26,000-33,000 pounds ($31,400-$39,800).
RA said a parenting and pregnancy guideline had been "agreed in principle", which would allow players in the national Wallaroos squad to receive their full contract for the year while on maternity leave.
The four-year CBA, which includes the 2023 season, will see Australia's professional men's players make a "structured return" to at least pre-COVID payments and benefits, RA and the Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA) said in a joint statement.
Players in the national men's Wallabies squad and in the country's Super Rugby teams agreed to deep pay cuts in 2020 as the game faced financial ruin due to disruptions brought by COVID.
They were effectively on the same terms last year as part of a one-year extension to the previous CBA.
Wallabies players will claw back some of the losses in the current CBA, which reinstates bonus structures for international events such as The Rugby Championship, the Bledisloe Cup, the British & Irish Lions Tour and the World Cup.
Base contracts in Super Rugby and in the national rugby sevens programmes will also have higher minimum payments, RA and RUPA said, without elaborating.
($1 = 1.5072 Australian dollars)
($1 = 1.6200 New Zealand dollars)
($1 = 0.8286 pounds)