NRL players are once again the cause of uncertainty surrounding the competition’s return on May 28, although this time for entirely fair reasons.
The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting the Warriors are refusing to leave New Zealand until the NRL reveals how much it will pay players for the rest of the year, a stand-off which has been backed by their counterparts from other clubs. Cameron Smith is reportedly one of several “senior figures” who are supporting the stance.
The Rugby League Players Association was expecting a pay deal to be tabled by the NRL yesterday, as the governing body continues broadcast negotiations with Foxtel and Channel Nine.
If no deal is presented, the Warriors will remain in New Zealand while the rest of the competition’s players will boycott next Monday’s mandatory briefing before returning to training.
The stance clashes heavily with a directive to clubs issued by the NRL yesterday, which indicated no excuse for missing the mandatory briefing would be accepted.
Warriors boss Cameron George told NewsTalk ZB radio in Auckland (according to AAP) that the details surrounding player pay and accommodation for families were “non-negotiable” before they would board their flight to Tamworth.
“There’s no CEO in the world right now running any organisation asking 50 of his employees to relocate to another country without knowing what they will be paid or without family support or when they are coming back,” he said.
While no exemptions to allow the Warriors to enter Australia are yet to be granted by the federal and state governments, the NRL expects them to be given in the coming days.
But the side is understandably unwilling to travel across the Tasman and go through 14 days of isolation – just days after New Zealand eased their level 4 lockdown measures – with such uncertainty over the competition’s status.