Queensland Reds players quit in ugly virus controversy

Harry Hockings (pictured left), Izack Rodda, (pictured middle) and Isaac Lucas (pictured right) have terminated their contracts with the Queensland Reds. (Getty Images)

Queensland Reds trio Izack Rodda, Harry Hockings and Isaac Lucas have sensationally ended their stand-off with Rugby Australia by terminating their contracts.

The group had refused to take pay cuts of an average 60 per cent that their Australian Super Rugby counterparts accepted, prompting the Reds to stand them down ahead of Monday's return to training.

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Other players agreed to the salary hit after the competition was paused in March - and Rugby Australia's brittle financial state was revealed - because of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday the players' agent Anthony Picone argued the Reds had no legal grounds to do so, in confirming the termination of their RA and Queensland Rugby Union contracts.

That claim comes despite RA, through director of rugby Scott Johnson, supporting QRU chief executive David Hanham's decision earlier this week.

Rodda was reportedly at odds with Reds coach Brad Thorn and seeking a move to a rival Australian team, while Lucas and Hockings were both said to be assessing their options overseas.

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The Reds returned to training but did so without Rodda, Lucas and Hockings, who through their shared agent Picone notified RA they would not accept the salary reduction or register for the government's JobKeeper subsidy.

“It is disappointing the QRU chose to air the issues publicly,” Picone told The Age.

“Given the parlous state of rugby in Australia and Queensland we offered the organisation the opportunity to deal with these matters in private and confidentially. This offer was rejected.

“This is their livelihood. It is only reasonable that talented players want to secure stable employment during these times.”

Of Australia's 192 professional players, they were the only three to refuse to sign the players' union-endorsed document, which will be revised once a broadcast deal and draw is finalised for a revamped Super Rugby competition due to start in July.

Livewire back Lucas and Rodda were both signed on RA top-up contracts to the Reds until 2023, while Hockings was off-contract this season but a player on the rise and in talks for a similar deal.

Rodda, who at 23 has already played 25 Tests, was one of a small group of players granted an overseas sabbatical to recoup their financial losses.