Clubs Sign Up Players Amid Pay Deal Dispute
Senior Sports Writer
November 25, 2020
NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo believes the game is only days away from ending a stalemate over pay with their players and reiterated plans to tackle the thorny issue of player movement on a day when two of the most coveted young stars on the open market found new home.
Abdo has been locked in tense negotiations with the Rugby League players Association over cuts to the salary cap for next season, the pressure increasing after the AFL reached an agreement with their playing group.
The NRL had been pushing for a 10 per cent cut, the union responding with demands that any salary slash be capped at five per cent. It is understood the parties are edging closer to agreement, the reduction likely to be in single figures.
The headline number on the AFL cuts was 3.5 per cent, but Abdo was at pains to point out that didn’t reflect the true level of reductions in player payments.
“I think you’ve got to put apples with apples and it’s important you understand the different aspects of the pay cuts,” Abdo said.
"The 3.5 per cent is a bit misleading. The AFL players reduction in pay in 2020 was anywhere between 25 and 50 per cent. You have to look at it over three years and I understand the reduction next year is closer to nine per cent.
"What we are talking about is the players took a 20 per cent pay cut in 2020 and what we’re proposing next year is a lot less than that, as in single figures.
"If you look at it like for like is what we’re asking for in reduction compared to the AFL is significantly less. We’re committed to spreading the pain as evenly as we can over three years and acknowledging the tremendous sacrifice the players have made.
“Having said that, our revenues have dropped by 25 per cent. The game has to transform to survive. We have been looking at different ways at resolving some of the gaps that exist and I’m confident we’re going to get there – and we’re going to get there in the next couple of days.”
While the size of the salary cap remains in dispute, it hasn’t stopped clubs pursuing players with relentless vigour. The Bulldogs on Wednesday announced they had signed Penrith five-eighth Matt Burton for 2022, much to the chagrin of the Panthers.
Penrith released a statement insisting Burton would see out the final year of his deal at the Panthers before moving to the Bulldogs.
Elsewhere, the Wests Tigers remain locked in talks with the Brisbane Broncos over Joe Ofahengaue and Melbourne have made a revised offer to halfback Jahrome Hughes, who is attracting admiring glances from rival clubs.
The biggest move of all came amid revelations that South Sydney would allow teenage sensation Joseph Suaalii to join the Roosters in return for a compensation fee.
Suaalii was at the centre of a tug-of-war between rugby league and rugby union before he decide his future lay with the Roosters, having been impressed with the path laid out for him by coach Trent Robinson.
He could start training with the Roosters as early as Monday and could be eligible to play in round one next year, although he will require dispensation from the NRL to do so given he will only be 17.
The Rabbitohs could have made him sit out for 12 months given he is under contract but opted to sever ties with the teenager. Penrith have taken the opposite tack with Burton and fullback Daine Laurie, who has agreed to join the Tigers in 2022.
The system has been a cause of concern for years and Abdo acknowledged it needed to be looked at.
“That’s what the rules permit,” he said.
"The alternative is narrowing a window to the end of their contract period. Our current CBA and rules don’t permit that.
"To move to something that is different that might avoid that situation requires structural change and we don’t have that at the moment. We have to work through it.
“Regardless of whether the system is right or wrong, we have to try to make it better.”
NRL players set to cop $20m pay cut over next two years
By Christian Nicolussi
December 8, 2020 — 7.45pm
Rugby league players will sacrifice around $20m in wages in the next two years as the six-month stalemate with the NRL finally draws to a close.
NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo fired off an email to club bosses late on Sunday to inform them negotiations with the Rugby League Players’ Association were progressing well and an outcome was expected “in the coming days”.
The Herald understands the two parties are more likely to nail down an official agreement by the start of next week. There is no appetite to leave the matter unresolved leading into the Christmas break.
As COVID-19 stripped millions of dollars from the game’s bottom line, the players accepted they would need to take a pay cut in the coming years – but exactly how much was a matter for debate with the governing body.
The RLPA initially pushed for just a 2.5 per cent pay cut, after the players spent the last five months of the season on just 52 per cent of their wage. They took a 20 per cent cut across the 12 months.
The NRL proposed a 10 per cent reduction before the RLPA countered with 5 per cent. League Central’s last offer was 7.5 per cent before it was reduced again and presented to the union last Friday.
Sources close to the negotiations believe the final figure will sit between 6 per cent and 7 per cent. Further meetings will take place this week, but both sides are privately confident there will be a satisfactory outcome to the talks that started way back in the middle of the year.
Clubs have paid players their full wages in November and will do so again in December before all payments will be adjusted accordingly the final ten months of the league season.
The 2021 and 2022 salary cap sits just shy of $10m, and based on 16 clubs over two seasons, players salaries would normally amount to $320m. Should there be a six-percent pay cut, $19m will be ripped from salaries, and just over $22m with a seven-percent dip.
The union are mindful other entitlements under the current collective bargaining agreement have already been impacted, including the retirement and injury and hardship funds.
The Herald also revealed last month Origin players had agreed to pocket $10,000 a game - down from $30,000 - as a show of good faith as negotiations continued. It is expected the Origin and representative payments will be impacted, including those taking part in next year’s World Cup.
Any proposal will need to be endorsed by the RLPA board and then given the players’ leaders’ blessing.
The NRL have already slashed around $50m from their own operating costs.
Once an agreement has been reached, clubs will also be able to plan ahead for 2022 with confidence. Big earners like James Tedesco, who this week signed off on a new three-year, $3.3m deal with the Roosters, will be out of pocket by over $100,000 the next two seasons.
ARL Commission chairman Peter V’Landys made sure playing groups remained at 30 moving forward and not slashed to help offset any financial pain for the players.
The AFL and their union agreed to a 3.5 per cent pay cut for 2021, but team lists were reduced. Abdo told The Australian last month the reduced rosters needed to be factored in when comparing the codes and the respective negotiations with the players’ unions.
Speaking on Nine’s 100% Footy program earlier this year, V’Landys said: "We’re there for all players, not just a few. There is 30 and we will continue it at 30.
"There will be a small reduction in the salary cap. I think our reduction will be the least of any sport. As a boy from Wollongong, I’ll be looking after all of them. I take pride in looking after the battler.’’