Ireland women’s captain Nichola Fryday says money wasn’t the only reason that players turned down full-time contracts with the IRFU – and she believes the amount offered to players can “only go up”.
Fryday was one of the high-profile players who declined the deals – which ranged from €15,000 to €30,000 per season – from the union last year. She decided to continue living in England and play with her club Exeter Chiefs Women.
“It didn’t just come down to money. It was about a lot of different things for different people and that’s fair, you’re going to have that at the start,” Fryday said at the launch of the 2023 TikTok Women’s Six Nations in London yesterday.
“I think it’s something that will grow over time and that’s fair. I think the salaries were consistent across sevens and 15s, so it wasn’t like there was a disparity there. It’s just the reality of where the women’s game is at the moment.
“Like five years ago, if a girl had been offered €15,000 or €30,000 to take a contract, they would have bit your hand off. I think it’s progressing each year, and I think it’s going to continue to progress. It can only go up.”
Fryday says the players will address it with the IRFU if being based in England becomes an issue in the future. The Offaly woman says returning to Ireland to take up a contract didn’t work with where she’s at in her life.
“It was just personal reasons at the time. It didn’t align with things that were kind of going on in my life – and the IRFU understood that, and I’m appreciative of that.
“I would have loved nothing more than to have accepted a contract, because what every athlete strives for is to be contracted and be a fully professional player.
“At the moment there’s that understanding between us and the IRFU that we’re playing in England. If that becomes a thing, then we’ll address it again as players. But it’s working that the girls in the UK are based in the UK for the rest of the season, and the other girls are based at home in Ireland.”
Fryday wore the new navy shorts for the season launch yesterday, which will form part of the Ireland women’s kit for the Women’s Six Nations. The switch from traditional white shorts was made to alleviate anxieties for players when they have their periods.
“If you’re wearing white shorts, it’s a concern that you can have. I think you shouldn’t have to worry about having your period whenever you’re playing a match for your country or for your club. I think something as simple as changing the colour of the shorts eases that anxiety or concern.”
The Ireland Women’s Six Nations squad will be without sevens stars – like Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe and Beibhinn Parsons – for the competition this year, as they look to qualify the Irish sevens team for next year’s Paris Olympics. Last year, the sevens players were pulled from the Six Nations after round three.
“I think the sevens priority is Olympic qualification and we fully back that.
“And to get the sevens team qualified for that would be huge for Irish rugby, so we’re fully supporting them in their quest to get that qualification. For us, it gives other girls opportunities.”
Ireland finished fourth in last year’s Women’s Six Nations after a dramatic late win over Scotland in the final game in Belfast.
Fryday believes the gap between England, France and the rest is closing.
“I think every nation is catching up with them. I think a year or two ago you would have said maybe, yeah, it’s a big divide but that divide is getting smaller and smaller each year,” Fryday reckons.
“I think it’s only a matter of time before you can’t write off those top two positions at the start of the Six Nations, because every team will be really competitive.
“I think it’s going to happen a lot sooner than people think.”
Ireland kick off the 2023 TikTok Women’s Six Nations against Wales at the Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday, March 25.