Thurston considers Dally M boycott

Dally M Medal contender Johnathan Thurston has not ruled out boycotting the awards ceremony over an NRL player pay dispute.

North Queensland co-captain Thurston said players had grown frustrated with powerbrokers over an ongoing collective bargaining agreement review.

The Rugby League Players’ Association began the review with the NRL in March.

While the five-year collective bargaining agreement between the RLPA and the NRL isn’t due to expire until 2017, there is a provision for the two parties to undertake a review of the profitability of the game with a view to ascertaining whether payments or allowances can be increased.

The main topics in dispute are reportedly 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.

A Fairfax report on Thursday said the NRL had told the RLPA that spending on the game had also increased and pointed to a predicted $40 million in losses by clubs this season as evidence of why they couldn’t accommodate their demands.

There was speculation that players would consider boycotting NRL finals promotions including the grand final breakfast and the Dally M awards over the dispute.

Asked if he would boycott the Dally M awards, Thurston told Triple M Radio on Thursday: “Yeah, I was one of the boys who actually raised that…I’ve got no worries in raising that.

“Biggest concern is with the player welfare and the retirement fund.

“Now is the time that we believe to stand up and abolish the five-day turnaround.”

There was speculation on Thursday that Test and Melbourne captain Cameron Smith would also speak out on the dispute.

Smith hinted at his frustration after their last round 15-8 win over Brisbane – Melbourne’s third game in 10 days ahead of their finals campaign.

He claimed after the match that the RLPA would lobby the NRL “quite strongly” in a bid to avoid five-day turnarounds in next year’s draw.

Players boycotted the 2003 Dally M awards.

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