NRL clubs are facing unprecedented uncertainty in securing players’ futures.
NRL clubs are facing unprecedented uncertainty in securing players’ futures.

Coronavirus gags new contract talks

NRL clubs have halted negotiations with off-contract players as the uncertainty surrounding the impact of the coronavirus on the game deepens.

There are about 182 players without deals beyond this season.

There are 183 more players who will come off contract at the end of season 2021.

Under the CBA, next season's salary cap was supposed to increase by $100,000 to $9.9 million.

But with the competition now operating on a week-to-week basis, any suspension or cancellation of the season would be "catastrophic", according to ARLC chairman Peter V'landys.

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Josh Addo-Carr’s desire to return to Sydney has been subject to much speculation. Photo: Brett Costello
Josh Addo-Carr’s desire to return to Sydney has been subject to much speculation. Photo: Brett Costello

"The losses we would sustain, we can't sustain,'' V'landys said on Thursday.

Players might be forced to wear some of the losses because of a clause in their CBA which allows the NRL to decrease the salary cap and other benefits if the game experiences a decrease in revenue in any year of the agreement.

The precariousness of the situation is also likely to impact some of the most high-profile off-contract players like Brisbane Broncos boom forward David Fifita and St George Illawarra forward Tyson Frizell.

Fifita, who has drawn interest from several clubs, has reportedly received offers ranging from $3 million to $5 million.

The Melbourne Storm were open to releasing flyer Josh Addo-Carr from the remainder of his deal after season 2020 but that too could change.

Until NRL clubs have a clear understanding of where they are placed financially most will not continue talks with off-contract players.

A player manager told The Daily Telegraph that at one club, any deal that was open for discussion only seven days ago is now off the table.

"Recruitment managers are being sent home, they're not doing any deals that were on the table last week. They've been told to close up shop until the uncertainty subsides," he said.

Another player agent said players are concerned about how the coronavirus crisis will affect their job security.

Some of the game’s biggest names will be concerned about their future. Photo: Gregg Porteous � NRL Photos
Some of the game’s biggest names will be concerned about their future. Photo: Gregg Porteous � NRL Photos

 

 

"I've had players calling all week worried about how coronavirus will affect their negotiations, especially for the guys off contract at the end of this year. It might be a smart move for players to consider taking a small downgrade now because no one really knows how the salary cap is going to look even next year," he said.

One club CEO urged the NRL to take a 'prudent' approach to registering any deal that might be struck considering the uncertain climate the game is in at the moment.

"You've got to stop negotiations. Clubs don't know where they are going to be financially, they don't know if the cap will be the same figure that it is, you don't know what it's going to look like," he said.

"I'm not even sure the NRL would register your contract if you sent it in at the moment. It's not prudent.

"The range of outcomes in this unprecedented situation is so extreme, it's moving really fast. You couldn't register say a million-a year contract, what if the season is abandoned and the CBA is torn up and we're starting again.

"It's unfair on the player, that's the other point too. Players are understandably anxious, a worse crime would be giving them a false sense of security."

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Elijah Taylor is trying to remain upbeat. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
Elijah Taylor is trying to remain upbeat. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

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While the RLPA has stressed a direct pay cut for players would be a final resort, Wests Tigers backrower Elijah Taylor said the entire NRL playing group would weather this tough period together.

"We are all in the same boat as players. We're under the leadership of the RLPA and they have our best interests at heart and so we're following their leadership. I'm sure they will come up with decisions that will benefit all players. You can't just think about yourself, in these situations you've got to think about the rest of the players in the competition," he said.

Elite sporting codes across the world have postponed their respective competitions as the coronavirus crisis escalates but the NRL has opted to play on.

The government's banning of public gatherings mean games are being held without fans in the stands for the foreseeable future.

The NRL, under the guidance of the federal and state health officials, have placed clubs under strict protocols, like self isolation, to help protect players from the threat of the virus.

Originally published as Coronavirus gags new contract talks


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