Is the latest deal with the RLPA fair?

Mark Campbell Roar Rookie

By , Mark Campbell is a Roar Rookie

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    The National Rugby League (NRL) and the Rugby League Players Association (RLPA) have reached an agreement. The players will get 29.5% of expected revenue. Anything on top of this they share equally with the clubs, the grassroots and the NRL.

    This 29.5% for players is apparently a 52% pay increase. How good would that be? Going to work and getting paid an extra 52%. The RLPA and NRL now agree that the players are equal partners in the game.

    I wrote an article on a true partnership between the players and the NRL where I noted that the devil is in the detail.

    The NRL notes that the average wage of a top 30 player will rise to $330,000 a year while the minimum wage will be increased to $100,000 next year and $120,000 in 2022.

    Moreover, a new Injury Hardship Fund will be set up to support players facing early retirement due to serious injury, replacing the Career-Ending Injury Insurance scheme.

    That is great news. However, I still want to know what happens to the players below the elite level. How are all players who play the game going to benefit?

    This isn’t unreasonable considering it is the players union doing a deal with the NRL – the governing body of the sport.

    Furthermore, there didn’t seem to be much detail about how the players would help grow the sport. Are they going to attend regular weekly school outings and rugby league carnivals?

    I notice when I go to junior league games and carnivals I see no senior players.

    What about the access to the media? Are we going to adopt the American system which has proven to promote the sport and increase sponsorship and crowds?

    Players will need to engage more.

    No more running out the other door after games, no more single word responses. I want to hear what they have to say; I want a real discussion.

    What repercussions occur if a player brings the game into disrepute? Yes, there are always mental health issues, but clubs are learning to provide the support required for this.

    What will the RLPA and the NRL do to make sure players understand that negative headlines cost money?

    Another thing that left me wondering if more could be achieved was the increase of payment to the women’s game. The NRL confirmed that “an allocation of $3.75 million for the elite women’s game – with the NRL and RLPA working together on new women’s programs to enable more females to play rugby league”.

    Junior women's rugby league

    Image: Sean Teuma

    I hope this involves the creations of a women’s league.

    Every NRL, NSWRL and QRL team should have an open women’s team. At least the money is a step in the right direction.

    Finally, my concern is the growth of the game. How will the grassroots money be spent? There seems to be no detail on this. Different groups in rugby league are trying different things instead of singing from the same sheet.

    A plan is needed, and it is required now. Not just any plan, an aggressive plan that will recapture the territory lost to AFL. The NRL needs a plan that will recover the passion for rugby league from the next generation.

    Honestly, it may sound harsh, but I don’t want our next generation growing up loving AFL and thinking rugby league is just some small park football that gets played in little pockets across New South Wales and Queensland.

    So, while it is great that players are considered equal partners, I am worried that too much has been given to the top end of the game. That 29.5% does not include representative payments, and even then, State of Origin players earn more than playing for Australia.

    Also, other nations with significant NRL representation don’t get a mention in regards to monetary payments. Go figure.

    Overall, I’d be happy if players received 50% of revenue as long as that meant, junior league players didn’t pay fees, players (men and women) at all levels in country rugby league and state leagues were represented in deals and benefited with payment as well.

    Maybe the NRL and the RLPA are working towards this. However, we don’t know, as there is a lack of detail or planning coming out from NRL headquarters.

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