Promising progress has been made towards finalising a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) after the National Rugby League (NRL) and the players’ union held extended negotiations. This development has led to optimism that a deal could be reached within a week.
The Rugby League Players’ Association (RLPA) and the NRL convened on Wednesday, marking the first serious negotiation in months. The five-hour meeting was attended by NRL CEO Andrew Abdo, ARL Commission Chairman Peter V’landys, RLPA CEO Clint Newton, and RLPA Chairman Deidre Anderson, along with other representatives.
Both parties are expected to return to the table on Thursday, sparking hope that an end to the drawn-out disagreement is imminent.
Expressing optimism, V’landys said, “It was a very positive meeting. If that continues, which I’m confident it will, we will come to a resolution.”
Prior to the productive meeting on Wednesday, negotiations had stalled over a period of 20 months. The RLPA attempted to restart the deliberations by limiting player interaction with the media and masking the NRL logo during matches, albeit this action was short-lived, spanning just a single round of the season.
In an effort to highlight their solidarity, the union released a video featuring prominent male and female players standing together in fight for their rights. Players declared in the “Stand With Us” video, “The current terms and conditions expire in three months, leaving the whole industry vulnerable. Players are people too; we deserve to be treated with respect. The NRL and clubs should want a completed CBA and the protection it provides for not only the players, but the entire industry. They say we aren’t informed. We are. They say we’re not united. We are.”
Points of contention in the contract include the autonomy of union funding, digital rights, and the duration of the game season.
Wednesday’s negotiating headway could mitigate any chances of players boycotting the Dally M awards or potentially delaying the kick-off of the upcoming pre-season.
The primary remaining quandaries do not centre around financial aspects, as the NRL has already declared that players will receive $1.35 billion in total payments between 2023 and 2027. This figure denotes an impressive 37.4 per cent increase from the five-year deal that is set to culminate shortly.
A successful resolution to the dispute will also assuage the uncertainty surrounding Test football at the end of the season. Plans for a tri-series involving Australia, New Zealand, and Samoa, and a separate tournament including PNG, Fiji and the Cook Islands are in motion.
The NRL is eager to finalise the collective bargaining agreement in order to shift its attention to planning the commencement of the 2024 season in Las Vegas.