- Rugby Australia announces sweeping pay changes
- Male and female sevens players to receive equal starting salary
- Women's 15-a-side team to be paid for Test matches for the first time
(CNN)Change is afoot in Australian rugby.
In December, Raelene Castle became the game's first female chief executive and now Australia's men and women's rugby sevens teams will start on the same pay.
An entry level salary of 44,500 Australian dollars has been set for both men and women's sevens players following negotiations between the Rugby Union Players' Association (RUPA) and Rugby Australia (RA).
There was a further boost for Australia's women with the agreement that players representing the 15-a-side team will receive Test match payments for the first time.
The announcement comes as part of a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that Australia Sevens co-captain Shannon Parry called "a great day for women's sport."
The agreement, effective immediately, will run through to the end of the current broadcast deal in 2020.
'A line in the sand'
RUPA President Dean Mumm said the new arrangement was a bold step forward.
"Securing this agreement has been a priority for all parties and provides the certainty and stability to put recent challenges behind us," Mumm told reporters.
"This agreement allows all parties to draw a line in the sand and move forward towards a more prosperous future for Australian Rugby."
Ross Xenos, RUPA chief executive, contended Australia's players would be able to concentrate on performance on the field thanks to improved financial security off it.
"This CBA ensures that every player's core conditions of employment continue to improve with every new season," said Xenos.
"Player well-being is no longer being spoken about as a priority but rather being delivered upon as a key outcome of this agreement."
All female players will now be supported by an "industry-leading" pregnancy policy, according to outgoing Rugby Australia CEO Bill Pulver, providing security should they wish to temporarily step away from the game to start a family.
Parry, part of Australia's victorious sevens team at the Rio 2016 Olympics, pointed to the success of gold medalist mother and two Nicole Beck as evidence starting a family needn't diminish you're your ability on the rugby field.
"The implementation of such a ground-breaking pregnancy policy is really important," said Parry.
"We're in such a different sport to most female athletes in terms of the physicality of the game, but to make sure you're not prevented from wanting to have children and a family is vital.
"To have the security of being able to return to your contract gives our squad a sense that the door will always be open, and as we've seen with Nicole Beck there is absolutely no reason why you can't come back and compete at the highest level after having children."
Beck returned to action last September after the birth of her second child.
Parry, who also plays for the Australian 15-a-side team, believes the new agreement means women will continue to view rugby as a viable career option in the future.
"It is always a huge honor to be able to represent your country, but when you have to take leave off work without pay for so long like at the Women's Rugby World Cup it does definitely put a significant dent in your pocket," said Parry.
"On the back of Olympic success in Rio, the sport has seen significant growth in female participation rates, and for us as role models we need to continue to do what we can to look after the longevity of the women's game."
"We're really trying to entice as many women as possible to come and give our game a go," she added. "This CBA gives them to security to commit to Rugby and to give it their best shot."
The next leg of the Women's Rugby Sevens World Series takes place at Sydney's Allianz Stadium from January 26-28.