Wayne Bennett has told players threatening a boycott of the NRL finals events, including the Dally Ms, to “pull their heads in.”
North Queensland co-captain Johnathan Thurston lit the fuse on Thursday when he claimed he would have no problem leading a player boycott of the Dally M Medal ceremony over the dispute with the NRL.
The Rugby League Players’ Association (RLPA) have confirmed the threat is real, saying players had become frustrated with the NRL’s response to an ongoing collective bargaining agreement (CBA) review which began in March.
The main topics in dispute are abolishing the five-day turnaround between games, increasing off-season annual leave from six to eight weeks and contributing more to retirement funds and education welfare costs.
Broncos coach Bennett was not impressed by Thurston’s threat that players were prepared to boycott NRL finals events like the Dally Ms and 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 and means so much to them.
“Let us bask in this month of football, the best time of year.”
Bennett said the player dispute’s timing could not have been worse.
“I am just sad it has happened this week,” he said.
“We have got the showcase of the season in front of us – the finals – and we are all talking about player disputes now.
“We could have 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 and what is in front of us the next month.”
The NRL released a statement saying they looked forward to renewing talks and addressing issues raised by players when talk of a boycott started on Thursday.
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 in March after the league announced a $50 million surplus for the last financial year.
The NRL recently announced a record new $925 million free-to-air TV deal beginning in 2018 with Channel Nine.
“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.”