Karl Stefanovic has taken aim at NRL players amid reports they will refuse to show up to training on Monday and revolt over a pay dispute amid the virus crisis.
The NRL’s plans to resume training next week were thrown into disarray on Thursday when it was revealed high profile players had threatened to dig their heels in until they received clarity over wages.
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With the Warriors refusing to fly from New Zealand to an Australian base until they also get clarity over wages as well as whether families can join them, it was intended as a show of solidarity.
The NRL said it intends on paying players as close to 80 per cent of their wages for 2020 as possible, but exact figures remain unclear.
Teams are currently due to reassemble on Monday, but until biosecurity guidelines and travel arrangements are finalised, training could be delayed.
Discussing the furore on Friday morning, Today host Stefanovic said the players “look like idiots” and are “completely out of step with the rest of the country”.
“They can deal with the negotiations outside of actually showing up (to training), that’s the thing for me,” Stefanovic said on Today.
“The Players Association have not led this well at all. They look like idiots.”
The Daily Telegraph’s political editor Anna Caldwell agreed.
“If they don’t show up for work on Monday they will look like almighty fools,” she said.
“It’s completely out of touch with the rest of society...Honestly, people are out of work, they’re lucky to be playing and lucky to have a job.”
Players boss denies claims of ‘revolt’
Late on Thursday Players Association chief executive Clint Newton emphatically denied a pay dispute with the NRL and insists players are not planning a revolt.
“There is no player revolt, there is no pay dispute right now because we actually don't have any numbers, we don't have the figures, we don't know what's available to actually distribute to clubs, players and other stakeholders,” Newton said on Thursday night.
“We can't actually be in any type of pay dispute if we don't actually know the numbers.
“As opposed to previous years or when you're involved in a CBA negotiation where you're fully aware of the forecast revenue.
“At the moment we don't have the definitive numbers.”
Newton offered no assurances players would be at training on Monday until they get assurances on terms and conditions, which is expected to anger the NRL.
There is also a belief from some that players are bound to return to training, given they will receive full pay for the month of May.
However, should training be delayed, it would not affect the NRL's planned restart date.
The simmering development comes as talks between the league and its television networks continue on new broadcast revenues for the revised season, with suggestions that won't be decided till next week.
Earlier on Thursday, Nine, the NRL's free-to-air broadcast partner, reported that it is agitating to pay only about 76 per cent of its $118 million due to the league this year after the season was postponed then shortened.
It also claimed pay TV provider Foxtel wants to pay 84 per cent of its $190m annual payment, with both networks having taken significant financial hits.
Those numbers are in line with the 20 per cent reduction in the normal 25-round regular season the league on Monday locked in for this year.