All Blacks superstar Ardie Savea has revealed why he negotiated a new four-year deal with New Zealand Rugby by himself saying it was a powerplay after admitting players have felt shortchanged in the past when comparing contracts.
Savea opened up on the negotiation process on his podcast after he finally put pen to paper to extend his contract with the All Blacks to keep him in Aotearoa through to the end of the 2025 season, following drawn out speculation over his future. Savea also recommitted to the Hurricanes until 2023 and has the option of playing overseas for six months in 2024.
"When players start talking to each other around their contract and what they're on, that puts power to the players because what agents will tell them, who they're negotiating with tell them, it could be so different to what the players [are actually getting]," he said.
"Say in my position, I might be the best playing loosie so far for the last year and a bit, or two years, and then you have another loosie who's probably there as well but he's just behind you. And then you come to negotiation and the agent or NZR are going 'This is a great deal, mate. You're on fire. This is what we usually offer guys that are on 50 caps, that are playing well, starting.'
"Obviously you believe [what they tell you], sign it, but then you go talk to the guy that's just behind you and you go 'Hey bro, do you mind if you let me know what you're on?' And he sends you a contract and he's on 50 per cent more than what you've been offered. That's when you go 'Hold on, I've been starting the last two years. This guy's behind me but my new contract offer is … 30 per cent or 50 per cent [less] than what he's on.' That's when people start figuring it out, start going 'Hey, they're telling me lies.' And that's where the negotiating, bargaining [comes in]. Agents and obviously the people we're negotiating with don't like it, but that just puts the power to the players and it allows you to pretty much negotiate more and provide for the family more."
The 28-year-old loose forward is widely considered to be one of the All Blacks' best and most important players, which was backed up by his performances in the black jersey this year.
He said the negotiation process took almost a year and he felt he got added value once he was named as All Blacks skipper during the season.
"This process kind of took a while and the length of it was probably the longest you negotiate a contract.
"I became real intrigued in contracts and what people get paid … how do they know their value, how do they judge it. I was real intrigued in that many years ago. For me, it was like I had been [through] enough in my career to understand what goes on – the kind of base of it. It was only a thought in my mind to do it, I was too scared, but then I just kind of had people affirm me.
"My thinking was more around challenging myself but also I wanted a seat at the table so when it came time to crunch and fight for myself, there's no better person to go battle for me as myself."
"I was negotiating a deal and then I got named skip and I still hadn't signed, so I was like 'Now that I'm skip, s***, my value's gone up'. That's just the risk and reward," Savea said.
"The longer you wait, you might get injured and then the deal's gone. Or you wait and things like that happen, being named skip, being a leader, playing well, and it just increases your value to be able to negotiate more. The timing of it, the risk and reward of holding your negotiating it, is pretty important.
Savea has played 59 tests for the All Blacks since his debut in 2016 and was a key figure this season, starting 10 of 15 tests and captaining the team four times during the Rugby Championship, becoming the All Blacks' 70th test captain. He made his Super Rugby debut for the Hurricanes in 2013 and has gone on to play 108 matches, captaining the side in 2021.
Savea said he's confident he'll remain at his top form for the entire four years but learned from his brother Julian who got released from his New Zealand Rugby contract after struggling to make the test squad.
"Jules, for example, signed a four-year deal. He was getting paid top dollar and then he didn't make the All Blacks in one of his still contracted years, they were still paying him top dollar. Eventually, Jules asked for an early release. They granted him an early release and then he was able to go overseas.
"If worst comes to worse and I'm playing poos and I don't make the All Blacks, I'll still be getting paid a good contract and NZR probably don't want to do that, so they'll probably grant me a release and then both parties are happy. That was my strategy around negotiating a four-year deal – but I back myself to stay here and leave a legacy."