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New flashpoint between NRL and players’ union as pay war ramps up

The Rugby League Players Association is attempting to strike a pay deal with the NRL that is similar to one they didn’t accept just a month ago as a new battle line is drawn over the no-fault stand-down rule.

The parties have been unable to agree on revised player wages for the remaining years of the collective bargaining agreement, 2021 and 2022, despite three months of negotiations. During that time, the NRL has tabled several deals in a bid to bring the matter to a conclusion, none of which were accepted. The most lucrative, offered in July, would have left the playing group in a financial position $10 million better off than the offer now on the table.

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo and RLPA boss Clint Newton.

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo and RLPA boss Clint Newton.Credit:Getty, Getty

That proposal was for a salary cap decrease of about 5 per cent, which the NRL made clear was a premium offer, and only for a limited time, in a bid to finalise the matter. However, the RLPA requested more time and information to make a decision. Given some other entitlements – such as the injury hardship and retirement funds – would be affected, they were pushing for a drop of just 2.5 per cent.

At the same time, there was debate about the make-up of the contracting system. Sources with knowledge of the negotiations told The Sun-Herald the union had floated the prospect of a reduction from a top-30 system to 26 contracted players, as well as reducing the number of development players from six, or scrapping that system altogether.

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