There is serious doubt over the size of crowds and corporate support for this year’s series, which will be played on three consecutive Wednesdays in November. An Australian Financial Review report last year said the Origin series now generates $100 million per year.
Asked whether he would consult his senior players about the pay cuts, NSW coach Brad Fittler said: “I don’t think I’d even want to ask them, there’s so much on the line and it’s been such a tough year.
Our players understand the bigger picture. People are hurting and I’ve got no doubt our leadership group, whoever is asked, will be fair
“Of course they’d all play for free, but it’s in an environment where they shouldn’t play for free. They don’t deserve to play for free, but a lot of it comes back to crowds.
“Our players understand the bigger picture. People are hurting and I’ve got no doubt our leadership group, whoever is asked, will be fair.”
NRL players were guaranteed 80 per cent of their salary this year under an agreement between the RLPA and head office, which paved the way for the season reboot in May.
Queensland Rugby League chairman Bruce Hatcher said people would be “living in a fool’s paradise” to think players won’t also have to bear financial pain in the game’s most-watched arena.
“I would be very surprised if the remuneration offered is going to be the same because I just don’t think the money is there and is far too much uncertainty whether the game will be played before a full house or restricted,” he said.
“You’d have to be realistic to think there will be negotiated reductions.”
Both states are lobbying to have expanded Origin squads to cope with the rigours of this year’s series, which will begin on November 4.
The first match of the series has been booked for the Adelaide Oval, but there is concern over whether the COVID-19 pandemic will force officials to play the match in either NSW or Queensland.
Both Fittler and Queensland counterpart Kevin Walters are planning for how to keep players fit once their clubs bow out of the NRL competition, with those who don’t make the finals to be without match practice for more than five weeks before the Origin opener.
There are also questions about how players will be remunerated if they continue to keep training, but don’t feature in the gameday squads during the Origin series itself.
Hatcher said the QRL had proposed to have squads of potentially up to 27 players to be at Walters’ disposal. The campaign has the support of NSW Rugby League chief executive David Trodden.
“The importance of Origin to the game is so significant so I reckon between five to 10 extra people will be needed [per squad],” Hatcher said.
“You’d like to plan with some degree of certainty, but we’re planning with absolutely no idea. I don’t have any doubt they’re going to need a bigger squad.”
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Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.