Australia's best womens rugby stars earn pay increase as Rugby Australia CEO Phil Waugh says still more to do

Darren Walton
AAP
Former rugby union star, Kurtley Beale, has been found not guilty of sexually assaulting a woman at a Bondi pub last summer.

Australia’s premier women’s rugby players could be paid more than $70,000 in 2024 after Rugby Australia (RA) took another step towards the code becoming full-time professional for females.

Tier-one-contracted players could receive up to $72,458, plus potential further payments from their Super Rugby clubs, following a more than 28 per cent increase from RA.

The governing body’s chief executive Phil Waugh concedes the code still has a “lot of work to do” to close the gap with the men’s game and isn’t predicting equal pay any time soon.

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“We’re coming from a long way behind,” Waugh said on Friday.

“We’ve got to be pretty responsible with the speed at which we grow and invest right across the game.

“Not just in women’s sport but, if you look at some of the salaries ... some of our athletes are getting in the men’s game, will that gap close? Yes.

“Will it get the same? Who knows.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 07: CEO Phil Waugh speaks during the 2023 Rugby Australia Awards at Doltone House on February 07, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images for Getty Images)
Rugby Australia CEO Phil Waugh speaking at the Rugby Australia Awards in Sydney last week. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images for Getty Images) Credit: Mark Evans/Getty Images for Getty Images

In announcing it had increased investment in women’s rugby for a second successive year, RA pledged more than $3 million in additional funding, more tier-one contracts for Wallaroos and higher player payments.

The number of tier-one-contracted players has increased from 15 to 23, with the $72,458 a year in RA payments for Wallaroos and Super Rugby Women’s participation up from a maximum $56,000 in 2023.

The code also aims to implement a world-class high-performance system for the 15-a-side women’s game.

The uplift comes on the back of a promising season for the Wallaroos in 2023, capped by a third-place finish at World Rugby’s inaugural WXV global tournament in New Zealand last November.

With the women’s 2029 Rugby World Cup to be held at home, RA is eager to build a lasting legacy as it embarks on the runway towards this marquee event.

“We have identified Rugby Australia’s sevens program as the benchmark for us to emulate,” Waugh said.

“(It is) one of the most elite full-time and fully professional women’s sports programs in the country and (has) achieved remarkable success for more than a decade.

“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.”

Former rugby union star, Kurtley Beale, has been found not guilty of sexually assaulting a woman at a Bondi pub last summer.

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