By Michelle Curran
Why does a French lawyer, with no connection to the Pacific Islands, feel so passionate about supporting Pacific rugby players based in France?
Pacific Rugby Players’ (PRP) Marion Salvaudon has come to anticipate this question she is often asked. Her reply is, “Why not?”
Her work with PRP combines her desire to use her legal background in the sports industry, and she has discovered an affinity for the Pacific region and its peoples.
When, after nine years working as a legal advisor at Ligue Nationale de Rugby, Marion Salvaudon took her chances and applied for a working holiday visa in New Zealand, where she knew no one, she had no idea what it would entail.
Arriving in New Zealand in 2016, Marion soon found her bearings with help from former ASM Clermont Auvergne professional and New Zealand Rugby Players Association (NZRPA) player services manager Kevin Senio and his wife, Anna.
The couple have spent many years in France and were eager to help Marion settle into the Kiwi lifestyle.
“It was great to be able to talk to Kevin and Anna, who helped me realise some differences between France and New Zealand.
“Things such as the lunchbreak, which is very important in France, but what consists of a sandwich in front of a computer in New Zealand,” Marion says.
Their connection led to an introduction to then PRP chief executive Josh Blackie, who Marion kept in touch with while she was in New Zealand.
“I was able to assist the PRP team to understand more about French rugby organisations and regulations.
“In early 2017, I was planning my return to France and PRP was looking for some help – it was the start of my adventure with the association.”
Marion’s first task for PRP was to build a database to identify where players were based, while also assisting PRP with France-based players’ contracts and navigating regulations in France.
“Then, in 2018, I applied for the player relationship manager role and for the past two years, my job has been to explain PRP’s role, connect with the players and the community, support the players with contract, suspension and income tax issues but also career development.
“For example, in February this year, World Rugby launched a level one and two coaching course in partnership with PRP.
“The majority of the players involved in the coaching course were Pacific, and it was a great opportunity for former All Black Joe Rokocoko and I to talk to them about PRP, and how we can better support the players.”
Marion has recently moved to a legal consultant role within PRP, and she is now focused on answering legal questions to support PRP and the Pacific rugby community based in France.
Her move has left a vacancy within PRP, and the association is currently recruiting a player relationship manager, to work 20 hours per week, based in France.
Working for PRP presents a unique opportunity, Marion says.
“You are doing something purposeful, and you have to earn the player and their partner’s trust.
“Being part of a team that has such impact is motivation for me – we are an international team, and we are working together for the best interest of the players.”
Throughout her journey with PRP, Marion has a new appreciation for Pacific cultures.
In New Zealand, she completed Samoan language classes, and she also had the opportunity to visit Fiji and Samoa.
“It was interesting to explore the islands and again learn more about the culture.
“When I was back in France, I was the liaison officer for ‘Ikale Tahi in November 2017 and again in 2018, which was another great opportunity to grow within the community.
“I was lucky to be able to visit Tonga in December 2018 – a great experience where I learnt about the huge changes players coming to France face.”
Marion says the players and their partners she works with have always been nice to her.
“I still think they are surprised that a French girl who is not engaged to a Pacific rugby player works with the community.
“However, thanks to my role with Ligue Nationale de Rugby, they knew I knew what I was talking about.”
The role can be challenging, but so can any job, Marion adds.
“My priority is to be myself and to support the players.
“I am not here to tell them what they want to hear, but to explain the situation clearly.”
Work for PRP
Pacific Rugby Players is seeking a player relationship manager, based in France.
This position is part of PRP’s global player support programme which guides and assists Pacific Islanders playing rugby.
This role focuses on Pacific Island players in France by supporting pathways to success, both on and off the field.
The player relationship manager will have an impact on players and families lives – during and after their rugby playing career.
Key focus areas include community, career, education, and transitioning into and out of the French professional rugby environment.
Applications close on September 30, 2020. Visit HERE for more details.