NRL players' selfless acts in $50 million pay cut disaster

Manly captain Daly Cherry-Evans (R) is among the NRL's highest paid stars. Pic: Getty

Forced with the prospect of unprecedented pay cuts, the wonderfully selfless nature of many of the NRL’s biggest stars is shining through.

Minimising the damage for fringe NRL players has been the chief concern for the players' union in talks over pay cuts following the shutdown, according to CEO Todd Greenberg.

Every club's top-30 players are expected to find out how much of a financial shave they will take when league officials and the players' union finalise negotiations on Friday.

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Fairfax is reporting that some players may be asked to take a whopping 87 percent cut to their annual salaries to ensure the game’s survival.

And while the cut is likely to be tiered according to how much they earn, it was the lower-income earners on each club's roster who were of most concern to some of the game's superstars.

Speaking on Fox League Mornings, Greenberg spoke glowingly of how some of the league's elite were looking out for teammates on the minimum wage as the game battles a financial crisis caused by the season postponement amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Rugby League Players Association president Cameron Smith was believed to be present in the meeting, as well as fellow directors Daly Cherry-Evans and Wade Graham.

"There wasn't one of those players who were concerned about their own financial future," Greenberg said on Thursday.

"The primary concern that came through on that call was, 'What are we going to do about the players from numbers 20-30?'

"And, 'How do we make sure they stay afloat during this six month period?' It was a nice, warming thing to hear the players have that view around their colleagues."

Greenberg went on to describe the important of the NRL and RLPA showing a united front in the midst of a global crisis hurting every corner of the world.

He re-iterated how league central sent 95 per cent of their employees home on leave for three weeks, while clubs are also working with skeleton staff.

The Penrith Panthers are one club that's sets to lose millions. Pic: AAP

When it comes to the players, there were suggestions they could take a 50 per cent pay cut that would result in a combined $50-million loss.

Greenberg was reluctant to speculate on a figure.

"When we went into the agreement with the players, the first thing we said and the agreement we made is they will get a percentage of the revenue," he said.

"The players wanted to be genuine partners of the game, so they wanted to share in the game's successes. So if the game does really well, they get a bigger slice.

"But in a genuine partnership, when the revenue goes down, you have to be aware that your percentage is going to drop with that.

"That's the conversation we're having with the players."

CEO fears for sides heavily backed by Leagues Clubs

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg believes teams propped up by their respective leagues clubs will be the hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis.

That list includes some of the code's most storied franchises, led by Parramatta, Canterbury and Penrith.

There were initial fears that privately-owned clubs such as Manly and Gold Coast could suffer the most from the enforced suspension of the season.

But Greenberg had a different take on Fox League Mornings on Thursday.

"I actually think the clubs with the licensed clubs attached to them, despite them being some of our biggest clubs, they're the most vulnerable," Greenberg said.

"(Manly and Gold Coast) have access to private ownership, and so ultimately if it gets really dire, private ownership has the ability to help in its own way.

"But some of those licensed clubs, the big ones I'm talking about, who've been big parts of rugby league since its inception through to the NSWRL, they're all in all sorts of financial stress now because they're physically not open and can't trade."

Canberra on Thursday became the latest club to stand down their administration staff, with only those who had leave up their sleeve still being paid.

The Raiders football department will work through until the end of next month, but CEO Don Furner said they would then likely to be asked to go on leave.

Furner painted a grim picture of the Raiders' financial position on Thursday, with the club closing the door on their new headquarters and all seven of their venues shut indefinitely.

"I've never hidden the fact our business is underpinned by the licensed clubs, of which we have seven," Furner said.

"But they are all closed down and they are expected to be closed down for six months.

"Our revenue depends on games being played, broadcasting revenue, gate, sponsorship, merchandise sales and leagues club support.

"None of that is there at the moment."

It comes after coaches Brad Arthur, Dean Pay, Paul Green, Adam O'Brien, Ivan Cleary and John Morris have already been stood down by their clubs.

They are just some of hundreds of combined staff across each club, and associating leagues establishments, to be sent home.

Some have even been forced into lining up for government handouts.

‘Hundreds and hundreds of staff’ stood down

The Panthers alone own five licensed clubs and are bracing for a reported $40 million loss brought on by the shutdown of each of their premises.

It is believed 400 staff at Canterbury Leagues Club have also been stood down.

"They've had to lay off, on top of their football clubs stuff, hundreds and hundreds of staff that work in their leagues clubs," Greenberg said.

"I have great concerns about how quickly we can get that back open.

"And none of us know the answer because ultimately we're in the hands of the government and a much broader global crisis we're about to face in our country."

St George Illawarra are part privately owned and are so far yet to lay off staff, while Wests Tigers have also been unmoved given a lesser reliance on Ashfield Leagues.

Despite the dire circumstances, Greenberg said the governing body remain determined to ensure all 16 clubs will survive the death knell.

Talks with the players union continue over the prospect of pay cuts, and are expected to be resolved on Friday.

"Our goal is to make sure all 16 come out the other end so it's not going to be easy and there's a lot of hard decisions being made," Greenberg said.