ByAdam PengillyMay 15, 2023 — 7.38pm
Radical changes to the NRL’s contracting model would gag coaches and club officials from commenting on speculation over player movements as one of the game’s biggest issues comes to a climax.
The RLPA has backed Wayne Bennett’s calls for a major shake-up to the system, urging the NRL to adopt their hardline principles and sign off on the collective bargaining agreement before the State of Origin series, which begins in two weeks.
One feature of the union’s proposed model includes having clubs lodge formal offers for players in a central register managed by the NRL, without revealing the overall value.
But their boldest plan is to beef up anti-tampering guidelines by banning players and agents from talking to rival clubs until they enter the final year of their existing contract, unless given permission.
The current rules allow parties to negotiate at any stage of a player’s contract, but a player isn’t allowed to field a formal offer from another club until November 1 in the year before his contract expires.
Another part of the union’s plan is to police any public comment about potential player swaps, deeming it against the rules for an official to talk in the media about a star under contract at another club.
Such a system would have significantly changed the course of Cameron Munster’s recent contract negotiations, which saw the Dolphins aggressively pitch for and talk publicly about their efforts to sign the playmaker before he was even in last 12 months of his Melbourne deal. He eventually re-signed with the Storm.
Other changes to the system proposed by the RLPA include:
- giving an incumbent club the last chance to negotiate with a player, ensuring Brandon Smith would have had to have given the Storm a final opportunity to retain him despite agreeing to terms with the Roosters
- restricting a development player from signing with another club until after round six of the season in the final year of a contract, keeping Sione Katoa out of the Dolphins’ clutches until later in the year
Clubs have proposed a staggered model which would allow more experienced players to secure their futures at an earlier date.
The player contracting system has been one of the biggest stumbling blocks in the pay talks. RLPA chief executive Clint Newton argued a central register for formal offers was needed.
“We did hours and hours of workshops with stakeholders, including a large representation of clubs,” Newton said. “The hot-button issues in those sessions were anti-tampering, allowing the flexibility to manage rosters, and protecting developed players.
“We’ve listened to the clubs, fans and the NRL. But we’ve done so without over-restricting players and sacrificing a huge contributor to the competitive tension that differentiates us from every other code in the world. Name another code in the world that is more competitive than ours from first to last place.
“Our proposals are a huge step forward in solving big issues for the game and we hope the NRL and clubs are willing to accept our compromises. We’re too far into negotiations, and we can’t see there being anything left on the table to bargain with. Players won’t be considering any further restrictions beyond our rational and significant proposed changes to the current system.
“I support Wayne’s comments in many ways. We should protect the bargaining power of players by not revealing the value of the offer, but clubs should know hats have been officially thrown into the ring for a player. We trust the NRL would uphold the confidentiality of the contract offers.”
The NRL said on Monday they had made their position clear on the player transfer system, and would continue talks with the RLPA now Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys and chief executive Andrew Abdo have returned from Las Vegas.
Said Newton: “The CBA negotiations have dragged on for way too long. We originally called for them to be done by Origin last year. It’s not fair on the players, clubs, fans or the NRL to have this uncertainty and tension hanging over the code.
“We’ve got an opportunity to have this done once and for all before Origin starts and work together to promote our game for what it is – the best in the world. We remain ready to rip in and get it done.”
Union’s radical proposal to fix the NRL’s contracting farce
It has been the biggest stumbling block to finalising the collective bargaining agreement. Now a huge move to overhaul the contracting system has been suggested by the RLPA.
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