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New pay boost for NZ Rugby players

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 14/12/2016 Angelo Risso

New Zealand Rugby will tip an additional $70 million into player payments over the next three years as part of their new collective agreement.

Effective from January 1 this year, the player payment pool will be lifted to $191m, including almost $25m for the retention of top All Blacks.

The annual budgets of Super Rugby clubs have also been boosted to $4.65m.

Senior players at both Test and club level were the big winners from the new agreement, released by NZ Rugby and the NZ Rugby Players Association on Wednesday.

Players on provincial contracts for more than five years will earn annual top-ups of $7500, while all retainers have been boosted to a minimum of $21,000.

Those on Super Rugby contracts over the same time period, meanwhile, will receive $35,000 annual top-ups if they commit to provincial footy.

All Blacks players will also collect $7500 assembly fees during Test weeks.

The boost to top-up and incentive payments is a concerted effort to prevent experienced players, particularly All Blacks, chasing big paydays offshore.

Stalwarts such as Aaron Cruden, Israel Dagg and Ben Smith have all attracted big-money European offers and may be lost to Test rugby after next year.

"More money is going to go essentially into giving us a chance to retain players," NZ Rugby general manager Neil Sorensen said.

"It's a balance between retaining our top 40 players who are our superstars, our All Blacks, and also ensuring our Super clubs have top-talented kids."

The uptick in player payments is primarily a result of increased revenue, with commercial sponsorship and the 2017 Lions series boosting NZ Rugby coffers.

Under the agreement between NZ Rugby and the NZRPA, players are entitled to exactly 36.56 per cent of all player-generated NZ Rugby revenue.

"If we can all work well together and generate extra dollars, we know it's shared, and that's respected and aligns us to common goals," NZRPA boss Rob Nichol said.

As part of the payment pool, more money will also be allocated towards expanding off-field player development programmes.

This includes a new and confidential illicit drug-testing regime, as well as a compulsory programme on respect, diversity and professional conduct.

A savings scheme will also be implemented for Super Rugby players and those in the NZ Sevens environment, running alongside Kiwisaver.

"We need to ensure our young men and women are fully supported and well-educated, we do put our players under a lot of pressure," Mr Sorensen said.

"If we can assist our players in being better people, we're also confident we'll get better on-field results as well."

NZ RUGBY COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT 2016-18, AT A GLANCE:

* $191m for player payment pool ($15m withheld)

* $21k minimum provincial contract retainer, $55k maximum

* $75k minimum Super Rugby retainer, $195k maximum

* $7500 All Blacks assembly fee for Test weeks

* $9.2m for new savings scheme on top of Kiwisaver

* $1.45m annually for personal development programmes.

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