'Strikes the right balance': NRL players accept cut to salary cap

Australian Associated Press
·3-min read
Pictured here, Storm captain Cam Smith celebrates with teammates after winning the 2020 NRL grand final.
The NRL's players have agreed on six percent cuts to the salary cap for the next two seasons. Pic: Getty

The NRL's salary cap will be reduced to $9.02 million in 2021 after players agreed to a 6 per cent pay cut for the next two seasons.

The Rugby League Players Association and NRL finally ended six months of negotiations on Tuesday, as part of the game's long-term response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The key part of the deal will see the cap drop from $9.6 million to $9.024 million for 2021, and then from $9.7 million to $9.11 million for next year.

That is seen as a win for the players, with a 10 per cent drop at one point mooted early in the negotiations.

Roster sizes will also still remain at 30 with a minimum of an additional three development players, after several models had that main number reducing.

However it has come at a cost after the game took an eight-figure hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

State of Origin payments have slashed by 50 per cent from $30,000 to $15,000 per game.

Other entitlements are also believed to have taken a far bigger hit than just 6 per cent, including hardship funds and the player retirement account.

"The deal is a fair reflection of the value the players bring to our game and the sacrifices they are prepared to make to ensure we remain strong in the years ahead," NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said.

"I want to thank the players for the professionalism, discipline and sacrifices they have made - not only to ensure the 2020 season proceeded but so the game can remain sustainable long term.

"I also want to thank (RLPA CEO) Clint Newton for the leadership he has shown in securing a deal that provides security for his players, the game and our joint stakeholders."

Players were forced to take a 20 per cent pay cut to their annual salary in 2020, meaning they were paid just 52 per cent of their usual wage during the final five months of the season.

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo is seen here addressing media at a press conference.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo has praised the players for agreeing to the salary cap cuts. Pic: Getty

‘Leadership and maturity’ of players commended

"The leadership and resolve of our members during this period of great uncertainty is something that we should all be incredibly proud of," Newton said.

"This revised agreement is another example of the leadership and maturity shown during such a difficult period in our game's history.

"When you consider the finite career of a rugby league player, which is not guaranteed to be longer than their next game, we have an important role in ensuring what we negotiate on their behalf is fair and reasonable.

"By prioritising trust, transparency, and honesty during this process, we have been able to reach an agreement that we believe strikes the right balance between protecting our members and ensuring the overall health of the game."

The next collective bargaining agreement is due to start in 2023.

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