The NRL has had a very difficult off-season with the World Cup reportedly being one of the reasons that the CBA and salary cap were pushed back, however in the continuing twist the league could genuinely be boycotted by players.
The backdrop of the situation is effectively that all of the players are in their own union of sorts, the Rugby League Player’s Association (RLPA), and the leaders of that group negotiate with the leaders of Australian Rugby League and also specifically the CEO of the NRL.
Those negotiations then address the issues of the salary cap, how much each team can spend, and also the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), with the latter being where the sticking point is.
Players want protection down the line mainly in the form of injury retirement funds whereby they’re protected in the long-term for a life after rugby league.
Instead the NRL bosses announced an increased salary cap and have failed to agree with the RLPA on the CBA, hence the potential strike action.
The man leading the RLPA is former Hull KR captain Clint Newton but the chief representative among the players and the reported ring-leaders, per The Daily Telegraph, is Melbourne Storm’s skipper, Christian Welch.
Welch has represented Queensland in State of Origin six times but one of his most impressive personal achievements is that he’s secured a degree from the most prestigious university in the world.
Harvard University in America is listed by Time Higher Education as having the number one reputation among the 2022 world rankings, with Welch having secured a degree in ‘Negotiation Skill: Strategies for Increased Effectiveness’.
With that level of education and skill behind the man who is leading the movement to secure a better CBA it could be a case that the NRL either bend and accept their demands, or break and the players could strike.
Welch told the Daily Telegraph in Australia:” I’m a director on the board and there’s a few senior players who are really passionate about the players’ cause.
“I’m pretty fired up, mate. It’s been over a year now that we’ve tried to get a fair and reasonable deal done and it hasn’t come to fruition.
“I’m really passionate about the cause of the players and will back them up with any chance I get. It’s the players making these decisions. The RLPA is the representative of the playing group.
“Guys like Clint Newton (RLPA CEO) and Tim Lythe (general counsel) are our leaders and we back them to get into these negotiations with Andrew Abdo and Peter V’landys to secure a reasonable deal for the players.
“We were frustrated last year throughout the negotiations but there were no interruptions to the schedule. State of Origin, the finals and World Cup went well. The players did their jobs and continued to hope the negotiations would start moving along and be more productive.
“We reached a point last Friday, with the offer that came through, that we’d have to start taking some action because it’s become really embarrassing, particularly for the NRLW.”