The strained relationship between the NRL and the players has deteriorated even further with players from two clubs boycotting events and threatening to pull out of the season launch.
The NRL is facing a player revolt that includes a boycott of the game’s official season launch and all promotional activity in the build-up to the premiership kick-off in March.
Cronulla Sharks players kicked off a player-driven campaign on Monday by refusing to take part in a planned photograph and interview session for the NRL’s website.
Photographer Grant Trouville had his equipment set up at Shark Park before being informed by veteran forward Wade Graham the players had chosen not to participate.
Local rivals St George Illawarra followed suit on Monday night when the club cancelled a media opportunity scheduled for Tuesday morning, despite sending an email earlier in the day seeking expressions of interest to attend.
A Dragons official confirmed on Monday night that the cancellation was part of the players’ escalating collective bargaining agreement standoff with the NRL.
The Daily Telegraph understands other clubs will be joining the boycott of promotional and marketing activities.
It is a protest against the NRL for the delays in finalising a new collective bargaining agreement.
The RLPA leadership group, including Wade Graham, Christian Welch, Isaah Yeo and Daly Cherry Evans will meet on Monday night for further talks on possible future collective action.
“This action is being driven by the players,” a senior player told The Daily Telegraph.
“The NRL doesn’t understand how unhealthy the relationship is with both the men and women.
“This is not about pay. It’s about the way the NRL have lacked respect in negotiations.”
The season launch is now under threat.
An NRL spokesman on Monday said: “We are aware of some players not participating in today’s club photo sessions with NRL staff. We are in ongoing discussions with the RLPA regarding these and other issues and look forward to an exciting 2023 season for our fans.”
In late December the NRL took the unprecedented step of announcing its salary cap for the next five years, infuriating the players because they had yet to reach an agreement.
Melbourne Storm co-captain Welch accused the NRL last week of showing a lack of respect for the RLPA in negotiations and pointed to the fact the players had not let that affect the product for the fans.
“The game is for the fans. We love rugby league, we love playing it. We don’t want to disrupt it, Welch told The Daily Telegraph’s Michael Carayannis on SEN breakfast radio.
“We’ve seen that throughout the year with State of Origin, finals series, World Cup, there hasn’t been one instance where players have taken away from the game or the fans when, at times, we probably could have where we’ve felt a real lack of respect from the NRL in terms of negotiations.
“We just want to get a deal done, stop talking about this and just focus on footy.”
Players have taken to social media in recent days to drive the campaign.
Cowboys halfback Chad Townsend posted: “We want a well-funded Past Players Program, better funding for the Injury Hardship Fund, funding for a Medical Support Fund, agreement rights on our employment conditions, match fees outside the cap, and a first-ever CBA for women. Their salary cap announcement doesn’t resolve any of that but it’s their way of hindering our wishes.”
NRL has offered $1.347b in total player payments, up from $980m in the previous CBA.
The NRL has announced ahead of 2023, a salary cap of $12.1 million, which is a 25 per cent increase on what was available in 2022.
The minimum salary for players will increase from $80,000 to $120,000 and players who have a standard rachet clause will have an 18 per cent increase in their playing fee.
Kurt Capewell: “We didn’t ask for a salary cap without a CBA. We wanted to negotiate and agree to a CBA that includes a salary cap – that’s how all major sports work. Instead, the NRL have tried to bypass the RLPA and wave a shiny toy of an increased salary cap in front of players and ignore the other vitally important areas we’ve been advocating for.”
Originally published as CBA negotiations between the NRL and RLPA in tatters as players boycott planned media events