‘We didn’t pick a fight’: Warner puts pay dispute behind
The public face of players’ pay dispute with Cricket Australia this year hopes the game in Australia never has to endure such a protracted and ugly process again but says they “didn’t ask for a fight”.
David Warner was the most prominent Australian star to speak out as the parties waged industrial war in the winter, notably suggesting that CA might not have a team for the Ashes after chief executive James Sutherland had raised the stakes with a letter to players threatening not to pay them beyond June 30.
That was ultimately not an empty warning as about 230 players ended up spending more than a month out of contract until a heads of agreement between CA and the Australian Cricketers’ Association was signed in early August.
More than two months on, the wounds of the bitter battle over a new five-year pay deal remain, with ACA president Greg Dyer using Thursday’s release of the union’s annual report to call for CA to review its behaviours and tactics during the troubled negotiations.
At the height of the affair it appeared unclear how senior administrators involved in the stoush could ever have healthy relationships with leading players or be invited into a dressing room again. But with England due to arrive in Australia by the end of the month, Warner says that is now behind them, with the focus for Steve Smith’s side squarely on the task of regaining the Ashes.
“We regret the way it was played out in the media,” the Test vice-captain said. “But we didn’t ask for a fight. We just stood up for what we believed in. That was a revenue-share model. We hope it never ever gets to that again. We’ve got another five years to deal with it now moving forward.
“We came to an agreement and both parties are satisfied now. We’ve moved on and we’re trying to concentrate on cricket and the Ashes.”
While an Australia A tour of South Africa was a casualty of the dispute the two-Test tour of Bangladesh in August and September also appeared in increasing doubt of going ahead as the impasse showed no sign of ending. It would have been a shame were it to have been called off given how competitive the series turned out to be, with Australia having to fight back from a surprise defeat in Dhaka to square it 1-1 in Chittagong.
“You saw the stance that the players had on it. We weren’t going to go on tour,” Warner said at Asics’ launch of the Australian team uniforms in Sydney.
“At the end of the day they came to an agreement and we ended up touring Bangladesh. But we were standing firm and strong and we believed in what we thought was right.”
Fast bowler Josh Hazlewood, who also stood up for domestic players as they were about to fall out of contract, said it was fortunate in a way that more of Australia’s international commitments did not fall victim to the dispute.
“I think at that time there wasn’t as much cricket as other times throughout the year,” Hazlewood said. “We only missed an Australia A series, which is unfortunate for a couple of players who were sort of pushing for higher honours.
“It was an interesting time but we’ve obviously all moved on from it.”
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