Deal close, but NRL boycott threat remains

The Rugby League Players Association is confident a pay deal can be reached within weeks, but warn strike action is still on the cards if no resolution is struck.

Almost 300 players met in person and via video conference to be presented with the NRL’s latest Collective Bargaining Agreement offer in Sydney on Monday night.

Negotiations have dragged on for 14 months with a October 31 deadline in mind, and the RLPA warns boycotts could begin by skipping commercial activities through next month’s finals series, including the captain’s call and the Dally M awards ceremony.

Players didn’t directly discuss the end-of-season World Cup on Monday, but skipping the tournament is still a possibility, as is challenging the league’s salary cap through the courts.

“We think that by locking ourselves away we can get this deal done. But having said that we can’t rule out further action,” RLPA chief executive Ian Prendergast said.

“The players have been extremely committed to getting a fair deal, and they will stand up and fight for what’s fair.”

Prendergast claimed the negotiations had moved a long way since his NRL boss Todd Greenberg entered discussions.

While the two parties have found common ground on the $9.4 million salary cap for next season, there remains a number of key sticking points in the deal, including the RLPA’s push for a shared revenue stream.

So far the NRL has come part way on the matter, but there is debate on what streams should and shouldn’t be included.

Other issues include player retirement funds, insurance schemes and integrity matters.

A serious concern for the players is the suggestion they could be forced to hand over bank statements and phone records as part of new integrity protocols.

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” Cronulla five-eighth and RLPA board member James Maloney said.

“Would you hand over your records to your boss? It seems unreasonable.

“There’s not too many other people who need to hand over their bank records to their boss.”

The players’ stance comes after club bosses last week left an NRL meeting confident the players would agree to the revised offer, which included a 52 per cent pay rise across the five years of the CBA.

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