There are also delicate negotiations continuing between the governing body and the RLPA over the NRL’s controversial no-fault stand-down arbitration and the game’s collective bargaining agreement.
The RLPA has been scathing of the stand-down rule and Prendergast was particularly critical of NRL chief Todd Greenberg in comments he made to the Herald this month, claiming there was a “lack of integrity” in how players were sanctioned for off-field incidents which have marred the game in recent years.
The NRL wrote late last year to RLPA chair Deidre Anderson expressing concerns about Prendergast remaining in the post when he was headed for the AFL but Prendergast himself replied there was no conflict of interest.
Sources confirmed the RLPA also pushed to have its general manager of stakeholder relations, Clint Newton, at the meeting of CEOs in Perth, only for the NRL to decline the request.
“There are conflicts everywhere now, at a particularly sensitive time between the clubs, the NRL and the RLPA,” one club executive said.
“How can he fully commit himself to resolving a number of these issues, while he’s already taken a job outside the RLPA, outside our sport and with our direct competitor?”
Prendergast was only informed of the fresh push from clubs to step down when contacted by the Herald on Sunday.
He defended the decision to stay on, saying it was largely so he could see out some “major projects” and complete a handover to the new RLPA CEO, who he will play a role in finding.
“The CEOs haven’t raised any issues with me and I’ve informed the NRL that I’m happy to work through any concerns they may have,” Prendergast said.
“The transition period is designed to ensure I can assist the RLPA in rounding out a number of major projects I’ve been involved with over the past 12 months or more.
“It will also ensure a smooth handover for the next CEO. I remain absolutely committed to finishing the job I was employed to do.
“I’m fully aware of my confidentiality obligations and will handle any perceived conflicts appropriately, including removing myself from matters as appropriate.”
Anderson also defended the decision to keep Prendergast in the role for a total of six months since announcing his departure.
“The RLPA has instructed Ian to focus on resolving the ongoing CBA dispute with the NRL, bedding down our organisation structure and strategic objectives for 2020, whole also assisting us with setting up the association’s future leadership structure,” she said.
“We hoped that the professionalism of this process would be seen as a positive, particularly considering the instability we’ve seen in the game recently due to the significant amount of leadership changes.
“We are fully supportive of Ian completing his notice period and thank him for his commitment to the RLPA and our members.”
Sam is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.