“Nobody wants to earn less than what they get, because we all make decisions around what we think we will earn – but this situation is completely different.
“It’s about making sure guys who are going to struggle living day to day are looked after. They are more important than the people who might have to cut back on the extra repayments they put on their house.”
NRL executives on Wednesday held a video conference with the RLPA, including directors Cameron Smith, Daly Cherry-Evans and Wade Graham, to provide an update on the game’s financial position and outline the grim outlook confronting the sport.
The NRL warned its players that if they didn’t return to the field in 2020, there would be serious question marks over whether the competition would exist in 2021 without the financial assistance of the players in the form of pay cuts.
The players are set to agree to substantial pay cuts in the coming days, with suggestions that they are willing to take their annual leave for the next two weeks and then take around 50 per cent for the next two months.
While no figures have yet been discussed between the two parties, there is mutual support for a sliding scale that would minimise the impact on the game’s low-income players.
RLPA boss Clint Newton sent a message to all players after the video conference, which hinted that those on smaller contracts would be considered the priority.
“It’s clear that the game has been significantly impacted by this global pandemic – as have a number of industries around the world,” Newton wrote.
“These are incredibly desperate times for the game, and we are no doubt in a difficult place. The reality is that player payments will be significantly affected, and salaries will have to be reduced to get us through this financial year.
“We need to keep doing everything we can to ensure the game survives. The RLPA and players are committed to supporting those most vulnerable within our membership and will do everything they can to provide protection and clarity through these times.”
The RLPA held urgent meetings with delegates from each of the 16 clubs on Wednesday afternoon, with more detail surrounding the pay-cut plan to be discussed again on Thursday.
The NRL, which is still waiting on commitments from its broadcast partners, is desperate to have a decision from the RLPA by April 1 to fast-track the game’s financial planning.
“We are in unbelievably, uncertain times,” NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg told the players in a video message on Wednesday.
“I appreciate that will have an impact on you and your families. Clint and I had some open and honest dialogue. Some of them are difficult conversations.
“The only way we can keep rugby league going and to strive and aspire in the next cycle is to continue to have hard conversations now for the greater good of the future. A lot of people in the outside rugby league world will be looking for us to fracture. We won’t do that.”
The RLPA will be in dialogue with its players on Thursday before a board meeting later that night that could determine the pay-cut percentage the players take.
“We are going to take care of our people,” Newton said in the video message alongside Greenberg. “People are everything in this industry. You’re going to need to trust us and trust the relationship will stay solid between us the clubs and the NRL. That’s the only way we will get through this.”
Michael Chammas is a sports reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald