NRL CBA negotiations reach a breakthrough with pay deal struck ahead of the 2023 season
The ARL Commission is poised to deliver the code’s first $1 billion CBA and avert a player strike after smoking the peace pipe with the Rugby League Players Association.
Rugby league’s bitter pay war is over.
ARL Commission boss Peter V’landys will deliver the code’s first $1 billion Collective Bargaining Agreement within days and avert an NRL player strike after smoking the peace pipe with the Rugby League Players Association.
News Corp can reveal nine months of intense negotiations have reached a decisive stage with the warring parties set to shake hands on a $1.347 billion mega deal in a huge coup for the NRL’s 510 players ahead of the Telstra Premiership season opener next Thursday night.
NRL and RLPA bosses have spent the past week locked in delicate talks. A resolution will be struck in the coming days _ preventing the first player strike in the code’s history.
It is a massive win for the players, who will clinch an average NRL salary of $401,000 as ARL Commission chair V’landys lauded the negotiating leadership of NRL CEO Andrew Abdo and RLPA chief Clint Newton.
QRL chairman Bruce Hatcher said a player strike would have been a disaster for the code, but confirmed peace is on the horizon.
“There has been a willingness from both sides to find a resolution,” Hatcher said.
“It would have been absolutely awful if players ever striked. The players would be seen as greedy and I see the total opposite in my experience with the players in Origin camps.
“They can’t do anymore for the community with coaching clinics and appearances.
“There was some emotion in the CBA talks, but I expect a sensible outcome will be achieved very soon.”
News Corp understands that only a handful of issues are to be resolved heading into next week, heightening confidence that an agreement is only days away.
Sources close to the negotiations insist that if progress continues on its current trajectory, it is realistic that an agreement will be struck before the opening round begins on Thursday, when Parramatta host Melbourne at CommBank Stadium.
Talks were put on hold over the weekend but will resume on Monday with both sides hurtling towards an agreement that would ensure industrial action is avoided and the opening to the season is free of interruption.
Abdo and Newton addressed a selection of clubs on Friday where they updated key stakeholders on the progress of talks. V’landys has also been involved in negotiations over the past week given the time-pressure on the code to reach an agreement before round one kicks off.
Two months ago, the NRL and RLPA were at loggerheads. But significant headway has been made.
Toxic tensions have eased.
One major problem - governance of the NRL’s player retirement fund - has been settled.
The NRL clubs will play a role in the final delivery of the code’s record CBA deal.
That will pave the way for the 2023 premiership kicking off, scuppering strike action in a huge win for fans.
Cowboys coach Todd Payten welcomed a resolution after months of claims, counter-claims and Mexican stand-offs.
“At the end of the day, none of us wants a strike. It won’t happen,” Payten said.
“Our players have had two meetings behind closed doors but it hasn’t changed their attitude behind what needs to be done out on the training pitch.
“We are all very privileged to work and play in our game. I understand what they are trying to do, but the players are well paid and I’d like us to get it done and move forward.
“Let’s see how players would go if they weren’t paid.”
Top-secret documents, obtained by News Corp last week, showed the NRL upped the ante financially to prevent NRL stars striking ahead of the Eels-Storm season opener on Thursday, March 2.
It can be revealed:
- The NRL’s final offer, sent on December 23, reached $1.347 billion, a 37 per cent increase in total player payments to the previous deal of $980m;
- The average NRL player’s proposed salary will rise by almost $63,000 this season - from $338,976 in 2022 to $401,823 this season;
- A 26 per cent increase in NRL male player payments to $1.23 billion, up from $976m in the previous CBA;
- The NRL’s minimum salary will rise by 63 per cent to $120,000 this season, reaching $140,000 in 2027;
- The NRL has pledged to provide $115 million to the player benefits pool including superannuation and injury-hardship funds;
- Of that $115 million, an extra $32m has been set aside by the NRL pending RLPA and player delegate feedback on how to distribute the additional funds;
- A contribution of $14 million to the code’s Injury Hardship Fund, which also covers NRLW players; and
- The RLPA sent a counter-proposal last month that did not request any additional money.
A number of NRL players have recently raised the prospect of strike action unless their concerns were heard by the NRL, but one of the code’s most senior stars, Broncos skipper Adam Reynolds, said snubbing premiership matches was a last-resort measure.
“All players are in the same boat. We would hate for it to get to that situation (going on strike),” Reynolds said.
“We have to fight and stand up for what’s right as players. Some players may only play 50 games. Some have a career that goes on well beyond that, but we are fighting for the little details in the game, injuries and retirement funds and those sorts of things.
“A lot has been said about the money but that’s not just what the players are after.
“As a playing group, we are trying to look after the next wave of players and the generations who will come through well and truly after I’m gone.
“If we don’t get it set now, it will be a tough challenge for the next group to get it sorted out and so forth.
“It is disappointing that it has dragged on through the media and it has taken longer than expected to get it sorted, but as players we have to fight for what’s right and make sure we are on the same page and moving towards the one goal.
“The public seem to think it’s all about the money but it’s not.
“We hope the CBA will be sorted soon, hopefully before the start of the season.”
Newton told News Corp recently he was not playing hardball with the NRL in negotiations.
“We want players to be going to rugby league because we can say (the NRL has) the best remuneration, the best support, the best services, the best well-being and education programs and the best opportunity to not just be good players, but good people,” he said.
“And then when they transition to retirement they have the best protections in place.
“If we were all moving in the same direction, we could be an absolutely formidable force in Australian sport.”