The NRL's plans to restart the season on May 28 have been thrown into doubt after it emerged that players were playing hard ball over a new pay agreement.
It's emerged that the Warriors are refusing to leave New Zealand until they receive assurances from the NRL about how they'll be compensated from having to base themselves away from home overseas.
The Warriors want certainty on a host of "non-negotiable" issues, namely detail around the eventual accommodating of families and the level of player remuneration - something which must reflect the sacrifice of being based in Australia for up to six months.
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The development comes as talks between the league and its television networks continue on new broadcast revenues for the revised season.
Answers to those queries and others are expected to be available following Friday's national cabinet meeting in Canberra, from which it could yet emerge that the Warriors are shut out of the competition.
NRL players were due to resume training on Monday but the Sydney Morning Herald reports that players are set to boycott those plans unless the Warriors concerns are resolved.
The report goes on to state that Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith is among several senior players to back the New Zealand side's stance.
“Some of the game's most senior figures, including Melbourne captain Cameron Smith, backed the Warriors’ stance in an emotion-charged phone hook-up between the players on Wednesday night, preparing not to show for Monday's mandatory biosecurity and protocols briefing,” the Herald reports.
“It was agreed in the meeting of RLPA club delegates that no players would return before the NRL announced how much the players would be paid for the rest of the year, a decision that the players had agreed to keep from their clubs.”
According to the Herald, the NRL has since told players to expect a ‘worst-case scenario’ 20 per cent pay cut from their overall salary for 2020.
Channel Nine rugby league reporter Neil Breen explained the potential ‘revolt’ on Thursday morning.
“The players were promised by the NRL that by yesterday they would receive many things, including all the biosecurity details, all the new rules they had to live by; also, a new pay deal,” Breen said on Nine News.
Breen revealed that Warriors stars Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Blake Green led calls from the New Zealand side for the NRL to provide concrete answers, before they committed to relocating to Australia.
“They told the call, 'Hang on a second, the NRL's not kept up its end of the bargain here. We were supposed to learn by today, they want us to relocate to Australia on Sunday and go into quarantine for two weeks.
“We're not going to do that, we're not going to travel, because if the deal falls over at a later date, then we'll be stuck in quarantine in Australia with no reason to be there’”, Breen said.
— Neil Breen (@breenie9) April 30, 2020
It’s hoped that an agreement can be reached before Monday’s return date for training but a new broadcast deal between the NRL and its partners Nine and Fox Sports may have to be reached first.
If that broadcast agreement can’t be ratified in discussions before close of business on Friday, it could set the NRL restart process back.
Players to discuss situation on Thursday
NRL players will hold crucial meetings on Thursday afternoon to discuss whether to return to training if a pay deal isn’t finalised before next week.
The league on Monday confirmed a re-jigged season of 20-rounds, which will result in a reduction of the current annual broadcast pay of roughly $300 million.
ARL Commission chair Peter V'landys told AAP earlier this week the Warriors would receive all the information they needed by Sunday.
“It's all going to plan. We just hope the state government gives us favourable consideration (Tuesday or Wednesday),” V'landys said.
“We'll get that other information that the Warriors needed to them so we can get them out here on Sunday.”
It is believed talks between the Rugby League Players Association and its members progressed on Thursday morning.
Discussions between the players' union and the NRL have also been described as productive, and that both parties are committed to next months' return to action.