The policy also takes all punishment decisions away from clubs – who are often accused of being lenient in their sanctions – altogether.
The power of punishment will be moved directly into the hands of the NRL Integrity Unit, making it more powerful than ever despite some clubs privately expressing their concerns about inconsistency in the Integrity Unit’s decision making earlier this year.
While the RLPA was aware of the policy and had been involved in some high-level talks, the Herald understands it requested to see a detailed plan days ago before a planned meeting in September, only to be told nothing had been finalised.
RLPA chief executive Ian Prendergast only read the full detail of the proposed policy on Saturday night, along with the rest of the rugby league world as it emerged online.
“This again shows that players are not aligned with the NRL regarding what a proper process looks like – noting that we have already issued a dispute under the collective bargaining agreement earlier this year,” Prendergast said.
“While we are absolutely open to reviewing integrity measures and exploring investigative and sanctioning guidelines – as was agreed under the CBA – we are yet to receive any detailed proposal from the NRL any have only been included in very high-level discussions regarding the concept.”
It’s understood the RLPA’s initial concerns with the policy are three fold.
First, the proportions of the proposed penalties; second, the lack of consideration for a player’s prior history in the guidelines; and finally, a philosophical belief that significant time on the sideline is not the answer in trying to curb the NRL’s player behaviour problem.
The ARL Commission have been the driving force behind this policy and the Herald has been told one of the commissioners, Megan Davis, told club CEOs at their recent meeting that serious bans are not the answer in striving to change the culture of player behaviour.
“While it’s premature to comment on the proposal before receiving it, there are red flags based on what has been reported,” Prendergast said.
“Player sanctions are only one piece of the puzzle.
“We must also address the root of the behaviour and make sure these incidents are used as opportunities for players to learn from their mistakes and grow as a person through targeted support and rehabilitation.”
Prendergast also reiterated his frustration in the lack of communication between the game’s governing body and the RLPA.
“We look forward to discussions regarding improvements that can be made in this area. However, we are also frustrated with the level of detail that has been leaked and the ongoing failure of the NRL to properly consult with its players in key areas for the future of the game,” Prendergast said.
“We note that any material changes to the NRL Rules that impact our members and are inconsistent with the CBA require the agreement of the RLPA.”
Sam is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.