‘Conditions of Long Service’ benefit in Sam Whitelock contract extension

In Sam Whitelock we Trust
Samuel Whitelock of the All Blacks is tackled by Kurtley Beale of the Wallabies during The Rugby Championship Bledisloe Cup match between the Australian Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at ANZ Stadium on August 18, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

For his long service with New Zealand Rugby, senior All Black Sam Whitelock has enjoyed preferential treatment and – as such – received beneficial conditions in his four-year contract extension.

Four years; that will take the Crusaders captain through to the next Rugby World Cup. And the NZR executives will be hoping that more players follow the big locks lead. Although, conditions today are weighted primarily in the player’s favour.

As the Test centurion signs through until 2023, the 30-year old has included several features that will provide him and his family with both security and options.

Options to utilize that are innovative and adaptive, to adjust to players needs and wants.

He will miss the 2020 Investec Super Rugby season. Whitelock will return to New Zealand at the end of the Japanese Top 14 season in May 2020 – meaning [on form] Whitelock could still be in consideration for All Blacks selection.

‘Conditions of Long Service’ in Sam Whitelock contract extension

With the 2019 Rugby World Cup only months away, few are thinking much further than that. However, contract negotiations are always thinking forward.

Whitelock had already been signed through to 2020 but had decided to negotiate a longer contract early. Whitelock said “I’m grateful to New Zealand Rugby, the Crusaders and Canterbury Rugby for their support of myself and my family in making this decision.
“I’m really proud to commit to these teams for the next four years.”
“Ultimately, this decision allows me to take some time with my family to experience a new rugby environment in Japan, before coming back refreshed and ready for the remainder of 2020 and beyond. I’m pleased there is clarity around my playing future, so I can focus on the remainder of this 2019 season with the Crusaders.”

New Conditions that Benefit Player Welfare

After recommitting to the ‘black jersey’ has seen praise heaped on the broad shoulders of Sam Whitelock. Head coach of the 2019 All Blacks, Steve Hansen explained in an NZR media released that “knowing that he has recommitted for four more years is huge for the All Blacks, the Crusaders, and New Zealand Rugby.

“We’re all incredibly proud of what he has achieved so far in the jersey and look forward to the next four years.”

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen poses with Sam Whitelock of the All Blacks after he played his 100th test during The Rugby Championship Bledisloe Cup match between the Australian Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at ANZ Stadium on August 18, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The new deal includes a break from New Zealand rugby, to play a season in the lucrative Japan Top League after this years RWC. As well, it holds an ‘exit clause’ which provides some flexibility over the period. How the contract conditions play out, is what is an interesting aspect of the contract extension.

So if the detail of the new contract extension for Sam Whitelock is examined, many features may be noted by other International players, are:

  • Player sabbatical which allows Whitelock to miss Super Rugby in 2020, but still be eligible for All Blacks selection
  • Rewards for long service with NZR, Canterbury and the All Blacks
  • Flexibility in his contract that is both congruent and advantageous, with NZR player contracts
  • An optional ‘out clause’ for the player to end his contract term

For Sam Whitelock, and for others to admire, it will be comforting that NZR has been considerate of the demands on players. The length of the season, domestic and International rugby, and the physical nature of the sport mean that player welfare is crucial in contract negotiations.

Many others can Benefit from Whitelock’s contract

While the personal benefits to player and union are co-beneficial, it will also flow-on to others. This is in the manner and respect of the conditions and terms.

That is relative to both New Zealand Rugby players, as much as the International market. For all centrally-contracted unions, this model could be used in Ireland or Australia, or wherever the needs of senior players are respected when looking to secure the services of names like Sam Whitelock, Beauden Barrett, CJ Stander or Kurtley Beale.

Sabbatical leave aside, the adaption by leading players to what stage of life they are in; as much as in the Rugby World Cup cycle, now play a major part in contract extensions. Playing in Japan might be an easier option than another full season of Super Rugby but, the engagement of new and improved options within contracts is admirable.

Leading up to Japan, and then looking forward to France in 2023, new variations of contracts must be used to retain the very best players. Sam Whitelock among them.


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