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NRL season restart under a cloud as players raise pay, biosecurity concerns during coronavirus shutdown


The planned restart of the NRL season on May 28 is in doubt because of player concerns over pay conditions, as well as health and welfare issues.

Players from all 16 clubs were due to begin training on Tuesday next week after a biosecurity briefing on Monday.

But the players will not commit to the dates until they get a new pay deal from the NRL and details of the league’s promised biosecurity plan.

Rugby League Players’ Association (RLPA) chief executive Clint Newton said the players wanted clarity from the NRL over their pay conditions.

He said they were “very mindful and respectful” that an update from the NRL was contingent on the league’s ongoing discussions with its TV broadcasters, the Nine Network and Foxtel.

“We haven’t got a firm pay offer from the NRL because that is still being worked through with the broadcasters,” Newton said.

The players have been guaranteed full pay up until May but their ongoing pay after that is up in the air, as the NRL tries to renegotiate a broadcast deal for a revised 20-round season.

The NRL is yet to finalise its biosecurity plan and provide details on health and safety and injury management for the players.

The stand-off is particularly concerning for the New Zealand-based Warriors, the Melbourne Storm and the three Queensland clubs, who will have to relocate to New South Wales.

An RLPA spokesperson said its members were in a vulnerable position as they were being asked to leave home without knowing how much they would be paid.

Newton, who spent today in phone hook-ups with delegates from each NRL club, said the players were not attempting to hold the NRL to ransom.

The RLPA is asking for more details on:

  • Final proposal regarding the operation and enforcement of biosecurity and medical protocols
  • Insurances and health protections in place for the players, club staff and officials who will be subject to the protocols
  • Clear guidance on any health and safety regimes that will apply to the players, club staff and officials who are subject to the protocols
  • A plan for the wellbeing and welfare support for players and their families
  • Medical and injury management support for players
  • Transparency of the NRL revenues based on the revised 2020 competition structure and the distribution of player payments
  • Detail on government approval for interstate and internationally based teams in relation to their travel, training and playing environment

Newton said the players remained focussed on working towards the May 28 restart date.

It is still possible the players could start training on Tuesday.

Warriors left in the dark

The Warriors are yet to receive an exemption from Border Force officials to fly to Australia.

The club is also waiting on approval to base itself at a regional New South Wales location, either in Tamworth or Lennox Head.

The players will need to arrive in Australia on Sunday if they are to undertake the biosecurity briefing on Monday and start training the following day.

Male Warriors players walk off the field after losing a match to the Knights in Newcastle.
The Warriors are waiting for approval to travel to Australia.(AAP: Darren Pateman)

The other teams will not start training until the Warriors are also in a position to train.

State and federal politicians have questioned the readiness of the NRL’s planned restart as they wait for details of the league’s health and safety protocols.

This week’s revelations that four players — South Sydney’s Latrell Mitchell, Melbourne’s Josh Addo-Carr, Newcastle’s Tyronne Roberts-Davis and Penrith’s Nathan Cleary — had breached social distancing protocols was yesterday slammed by New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

Ms Berejiklian said their actions had jeopardised the proposed restart of the NRL competition.

“We are in a pandemic. It’s life and death,” she said.

“You might forego your own safety, but to compromise someone else’s safety, that’s inexcusable.”

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