Pull your heads in.
Wayne Bennett has delivered the blunt message to NRL stars such as Johnathan Thurston, saying their boycott threat is damaging the game.
Tipped to win a record fourth Dally M Medal this year, Thurston lit the fuse when he refused to rule out leading a player boycott of the award ceremony over a welfare and pay dispute with the NRL.
Test and Melbourne captain Cameron Smith has also taken the league to task over the issues.
They say players are frustrated with the NRL’s response to an ongoing collective bargaining agreement review with the Rugby League Players’ Association which began in March.
Broncos coach Bennett was clearly not impressed by the players’ threat to boycott NRL finals events including the Dally Ms and the grand final lunch.
“I don’t think they have put much thought into it to be honest with you,” Bennett said ahead of Brisbane’s NRL qualifying final with Thurston’s Cowboys on Saturday night.
“I don’t think they want to deliberately damage the finals but that is what they are doing.
“I just hope they pull their heads in and not damage the product they talk so dearly about.”
Thurston indicated how frustrated players had become with the ongoing review when he claimed he would have no problem boycotting the Dally Ms if required.
But Cowboys coach Paul Green did not believe the issue would prove a distraction for his main man Thurston in their Suncorp Stadium finals clash.
“He’s very excited about the game on Saturday night…I’m sure that will be his main focus,” he said.
However, Green did not support a player boycott and called for some leadership from the NRL.
“Striking …(at) the Dally Ms is probably not the way to go but the players probably just want to be heard,” he said.
“We need some leadership there from the top and I’m sure that will happen.”
Bennett said the player boycott threat’s timing could not have been worse.
“We have got the showcase of the season in front of us… and we are all talking about player disputes now,” he said.
“We could waited another month and it wouldn’t have made any difference.
“So I just hope they drop off as quick as they started and everybody can talk about the great game that we have got.”
The NRL released a statement late on Thursday saying they looked forward to renewing talks and addressing issues raised by players this week.
While the five-year collective bargaining agreement between the RLPA and the NRL doesn’t expire until 2017, there is a provision for them to review the game’s profitability and whether payments or allowances can be increased.
The RLPA began talks with the NRL after the league announced a $50 million surplus for the last financial year.
“It’s not about a cash grab or an increase in the salary cap,” RLPA president Clint Newton said.
“The players are the game’s greatest asset and we feel we have a right to maintain a fair and reasonable share of the revenue.”