Johnathan Thurston looks to have come up with arguably the best try-assist of his career, with the NRL agreeing in principle to a revised collective bargaining agreement with the Rugby League Players’ Association (RLPA).
Despite being heavily favoured to take out an unprecedented fourth Dally M medal next month, Thurston threatened to boycott this year’s gala awards after negotiations stalled on a number of player concerns.
But after a breakthrough meeting with NRL chief executive Dave Smith and clubs representative Don Furner at Rugby League Central on Wednesday, Thurston’s aggressive stance appears set to pay off.
“There’s a couple of things that we’ve agreed to in principle,” RLPA chairman Clint Newton told AAP.
“I’m confident we’ll be able to report back to the playing group in the very near future that the conditions the players work under are improved, with the entitlements.”
The players’ union has long stressed that most of their issues stem around player welfare, primarily around two extra weeks of annual leave as well as the abolishment of the five-day turnaround.
Newton said the NRL had finally conceded players were being overworked.
“I’m certainly pleased to say the NRL agrees that there has been a very real increase in player workload and the demands on the players since the CBA (collective bargaining agreement) came into force in 2013 has certainly increased,” he said.
“That was a really important point from the playing group. They wanted the NRL to understand that.
“Now they’re on board with our concerns and they’re acting on it, which is great.
“We’re working on finalising the details and expect to do that by the end of the season.”
The players’ revenue share is also expected to rise from its current 20 per cent mark.
“That was another really productive conversation today. The NRL are taking the necessary steps to understand our claims,” Newton said.
Kangaroos skipper Cameron Smith had earlier applauded Thurston’s “selfless” decision to risk missing what would be a history-making night to stand up for players’ rights.
A fourth medal would take the 32-year-old North Queensland captain past eighth Immortal Andrew Johns’ three gongs.
Smith revealed Thurston had reached out to him after their most recent captains’ phone conference, informing him of his decision to make a stand against the governing body.
“He spoke to me about how strongly he felt about not attending the Dally Ms if it got to that point,” Smith said.
“But it shows how much he supports the RLPA and, more so, he looks at the wellbeing of the group.
“To put an almost guaranteed Dally M medal of his own on the line, it’s a very courageous call.”