Hundreds of male and female players who covered the NRL logo with tape won’t do it again this week - but it’s not the end of their protests against stalled talks over a new pay deal.
The Rugby League Players’ Association confirmed on Wednesday its members wouldn’t run out for the next round of matches with a visible demonstration against the governing body, despite no further progress on reaching an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement.
The game’s best NRL and NRLW players all concealed the NRL logo on their jerseys for round 22 matches in the men’s competition and the second weekend of women’s games, creating bizarre scenes of tape plastered on jumpers.
But the demonstration has been scaled back, with several players not authorised to speak publicly confirming they had only discussed the move for one week.
It means the Roosters and Sea Eagles clash at the SCG on Thursday night will feature players running out with the NRL logo in full view.
Instead, players have already turned their attention to further forms of protests over the next month if they don’t strike a new deal, which is likely to include delaying kick-off times, a boycott of the Dally M awards and a continuation of the media blackout, which has seen players refuse to undertake interviews on any day an NRL, NRLW or State of Origin match is held.
The stalemate in negotiations also includes the parties being unable to agree on how talks will resume.
Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys wants to sideline his own chief executive Andrew Abdo and RLPA boss Clint Newton from talks, instead dealing directly with player directors such as Daly Cherry-Evans and Christian Welch.
The players’ union has proposed an independent industrial relations mediator settle the dispute, which the NRL has baulked at, arguing the arbiter would have no context of months of negotiations.
It also believes the players’ claims are excessive. V’landys has publicly said he’s sceptical the RLPA even want to do a deal.
This masthead revealed earlier this week there are fears next year’s salary cap won’t be enforceable if they can’t reach a deal before October 31 given there is no ability to roll over the existing collective bargaining agreement for another 12 months.
But the primary focus on Thursday night should be on the match given the logo covering won’t be an issue, with the Roosters needing to win all five of their remaining matches to have any chance of making the finals.
“[Thursday] night is pretty important to us how we play and how we go about the game,” Roosters coach Trent Robinson said.
“It’s not much use looking too much further down the track. But we also know the importance of [Thursday] night. There’s no point hiding from that. There are some things we really want to nail. We know what we’ve got in the team and what we’re capable of.”
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