An end to the conspicuous protests of the NRL players displaying taped-over NRL logos has been signalled; however, their discontentment over negotiations for a new pay deal remain unresolved. A multitude of both male and female rugby athletes had participated in this visual protest amid stalled discussions about the new agreement around their income.
On Wednesday, the Rugby League Players’ Association (RLPA) notified that the players will no longer showcase their protest by taping over the NRL logo on their uniforms in the forthcoming round of matches. This decision comes despite the fact that no significant advancement in the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement has been made.
Round 22 of the men’s events and the second weekend of the women’s games observed athletes in both the NRL and NRLW competitions masking the NRL logos on their jerseys – an unusual spectacle in the world of Rugby League, as they sported jerseys plastered with tape.
The subtle scale-down of this demonstration has seen several players, who were not given permission to disclose the happenings publicly, reveal that the protest was only slated for one week. Consequently, it can be expected that the NRL logos will be in full view at Thursday night’s tussle between the Roosters and Sea Eagles at the SCG.
Despite the muted protests in the upcoming matches, the players are contemplating different modes of protests for the forthcoming month, if a new deal is not reached. Strategies include delaying kick-off times and boycotting the Dally M awards, in addition to the ongoing media blackout. This last measure has involved players’ refusal to take part in interviews on any day a game from NRL, NRLW, or State of Origin takes place.
The stalemate in the negotiations is further hindered by both parties’ inability to reach a consensus on how talks should proceed. Peter V’landys, the Australian Rugby League Commission chairman, has expressed a desire to circumvent both his own CEO Andrew Abdo and RLPA boss Clint Newton, in favour of conducting talks directly with player directors such as Daly Cherry-Evans and Christian Welch.
Meanwhile, the players’ union has suggested an impartial industrial relations mediator to alleviate the heated dispute. This idea has been resisted by the NRL, who argue that an arbiter would lack context and understanding of the ins-and-outs of the months-long negotiations. The NRL also holds that the players are making excessive demands, with V’landys publicly expressing scepticism about the RLPA‘s genuine intention to reach a settlement.
Earlier this week, it came to light that concerns are swirling about the enforceability of next year’s salary cap if a resolution is not achieved by October 31. This worry stems from the inability to extend the current collective bargaining agreement for another 12 months.
Now, with the logo-based protest behind them, the upcoming Thursday match between the Roosters and the Sea Eagles presents the perfect opportunity to shift focus onto the game itself. The Roosters need to secure wins in all their remaining games to have a shot at the finals.
Roosters coach, Trent Robinson, stressed the imperative of the game on Thursday night, “It’s not much use looking too much further down the track. But we also know the importance of Thursday night. There’s no point hiding from that. There are some things we really want to nail. We know what we’ve got in the team and what we’re capable of.” These words serve as a resounding reminder that, despite the ongoing strife, the game remains at the heart of their efforts.