NRL players are set to get up to 10 weeks of annual leave at the end of the season, the most ever offered, under a new deal to ensure they can recuperate from the strains of living in bubbles.
The NRL and the players union are close to an agreement that increases the amount of holiday time by about a fortnight for almost all players. Under the proposal, which is expected to be ratified next week, footballers who have completed four pre-seasons or fewer will get eight weeks off. Those players who have endured five or more will get 10 weeks, the biggest break ever offered.
The additional vacation time will come after a work-balance committee discussed the issue with all key stakeholders. The committee, chaired by NRL head of football Graham Annesley and Rugby League Players Association chief executive Clint Newton, considered the fact that last season finished much later than usual, that the players have spent long periods in strict biosecurity bubbles and that most teams have been forced to relocate to Queensland.
Other members on the committee include Titans coach Justin Holbrook, coaches association representative Neil Henry, NRL official Jason King, Storm football boss Frank Ponissi, NRL welfare manager Paul Heptonstall, Tigers physical performance manager Andrew Gray, NRL medical operations manager Craig Catterick and Kangaroos elite performance manager Troy Thomson.
The first players to report for pre-season training will return to their clubs from November 3 and even the late arrivals will get at least 13 weeks of training before the first game of the new season.
There will also be recommendations on how much leave football club staff should receive.
“The workloads and balance committee has shown an ability to work together with all the industry stakeholders – the coaches, high-performance managers, football managers, the NRL and the RLPA – to deliver the best possible outcomes for the players, staff and families,” Newton said.
“It’s been an incredibly demanding year and it’s something we need to continually prioritise, how we are managing the players. The industry continues to demonstrate they are willing to make player wellbeing, rest and recovery a priority.”