No Pride Round in NRL calendar for 2023
The NRL will not introduce a Pride Round this season after opting to stick with the same themed rounds as in the 2022 calendar.
NRL officials launched the first of their specialist rounds on Tuesday, with a multicultural event at Belmore attended by several schools and a number of Canterbury greats.
Themed rounds did not appear on the draw when it was announced last November, with ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys reserving the right to add them before the start of the season.
The topic of a Pride Round remains a difficult one for the league, after seven Manly players boycotted the club's rainbow jersey during Women in League Round last year.
At the time, Manly owner Scott Penn called on the NRL to introduce a league-wide Pride Round, with the club having since confirmed they will not go it alone with a rainbow strip this year.
The NRL has since weighed up the possibility of a Respect Round, with an initiative that would be accepting of the views of all.
But sources close to the situation have now confirmed the NRL will stick with the same themes as last year, and will not add any new ones to this year's calendar.
When asked about the issue, NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said the league's calendar was now set for 2023.
"We are dealing with the themed rounds as we go through the season. We're not expecting to make any changes," Abdo said.
"Our focus now is on multicultural round, and you will see the other rounds unfold as we move through the season."
It means the NRL will stick with a Multicultural, Indigenous, Women's, Anzac and Brain Cancer Round in 2023.
NRL players were notably absent from Tuesday's Multicultural Round launch, as part of their ongoing boycott of NRL events.
Several items are still yet to be agreed upon by the players' union and NRL in collective bargaining agreement talks, including a proposed transfer system from head office.
A term sheet and longer document must also still be written while the contracting window remains closed for women's players as both sides iron out the final details of their terms.
Abdo instead joined Canterbury's 2004 premiership winners Sonny Bill Williams, Hazem El Masri and Willie Mason in launching the round as they returned to Belmore.
The round was introduced last year to reflect the 63 different national heritages represented in the NRL and the 29 per cent of players born outside Australia.
More than half of NRL and NRLW players have a parent born overseas, while 45 per cent of players in the men's game identify as Pasifika and 10 per cent as Indigenous.
Abdo himself is of South African-Lebanese descent and he and V'landys have spoken previously about how rugby league helped their families assimilate in Australia.
"Australia is multicultural, rugby league is multicultural. And it's something I am really proud of and feel quite fortunate to be part of," Abdo said.
"We are also celebrating League in Harmony, which is our program run in about 120 schools across Sydney which is all about inclusivity.
"Using the language of rugby league and sport to bring people together."