NRL showpiece match under threat amid new warning over pay demands

The All stars showpiece game could be the biggest casualty of an ugly dispute between the NRL and its players.

Pictured right, Latrell Mitchell leads his side's pre-match routine in the NRL All Stars game in 2021.
The iconic All Stars game could be the biggest casualty of an ongoing dispute between the NRL and players over pay and conditions. Pic: Getty

The prestigious All Stars games could be the first casualty of rugby league's civil war unless the warring factions can broker peace over the next two days. That's the warning from premiership-winning former Queensland Origin star Scott Sattler as 60 of the game's leading players face-off with NRL CEO Andrew Abdo in Sydney in a bid to end a nasty impasse over pay and conditions.

Strike action is a real possibility unless the players' demands are met – and the first casualty could be the Australian Indigenous v Maori showdown in Rotorua on February 11.

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"I’d be surprised if the All Stars game goes ahead to be honest," Sattler said. "The NRL have probably sat on their hands for too long on this and didn’t think that the players were that strong.

"(Peter) V’landys and Abdo didn’t think that (RLPA CEO) Clint Newton had the support that they thought he would (but) the support is gathering a lot more strength.

"I’d be really surprised if that All Stars game goes ahead if it continues the way it is."

Players confirm that strike action is a possibility

Before the players entered talks with Abdo on Friday as part of a 48-hour summit aimed at reaching some sort of agreement on a Collective Bargaining Agreement, Newcastle forward Adam Elliott warned of "something extreme" if the NRL failed to act.

He told Newcastle radio station Hit106.9: “If we don’t get the results in the next sort of 24-48 hours in the boardroom between our president, Clint Newton, Andrew Abdo and Peter V’Landys then we’re going to be speaking about different action that we’re going to take.

Seen here, Adam Elliott taking the ball up for the Canberra Raiders during an NRL game against the Melbourne Storm in 2022.
Adam Elliott takes the ball up for the Canberra Raiders during an NRL game against the Melbourne Storm in 2022. Pic: Getty

"We’re a really united playing group at the moment - it’s probably the most united and together I have ever seen a group. If it gets to the point where we’ve to do something extreme, I’m really confident that all the players are going to buy into it and be working together for that common goal."

But Elliott insisted strike action would be a last resort. He added: "We're rugby league players, we want to play footy."

The All Stars fixture is one of the season's feel-good games, popular among players and fans and providing some magical moments on and off the field. Players from both sides would be reluctant to pull the pin on the game seven days out from kick-off, but such is the anger among RLPA members that nothing is off the table.

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