NRL axes season launch with players pay dispute unresolved

The NRL has cancelled its season launch for a second consecutive year as a pay dispute with its players currently remains unresolved.

With talks ongoing regarding the Collective Bargaining Agreement between competition and player, the NRL have decided to remove the risk of any tension at the event – which was scheduled for Thursday.

NRL players had indicated they were willing to boycott the season launch – and haven’t ruled out strike action – although discussions on the CBA are currently progressing well.

MORE: How long is Ryan Papenhuyzen out?

The competition body revealed their reason for the cancellation in a statement.

“Due to the ongoing collective bargaining agreement negotiations, the NRL will not hold a season launch function this Thursday as originally planned,” a statement released to News Corp said.

“The NRL remains focused on making positive progress regarding the joint NRL and NRLW agreements.”

 It’s the second-straight year the NRL launch hasn’t gone ahead, after the 2022 event was not held because of flooding in the Penrith region.


What do the players want from the new Collective Bargaining Agreement?

Contrary to popular belief, the players aren’t after more money.

Just before Christmas, the NRL announced increased salary caps for the competitions, which saw the men’s rise by around 25 per cent and women’s by 153 per cent.

The RLPA says the salary cap was determined without consultation and refused to acknowledge many issues the players wanted addressed.

Additionally, they feel the Commission have lacked respect throughout the process.

“To announce new salary caps for players without their agreement and bypassing their association is unprecedented and, to the best of our knowledge, clubs were also not provided with the details of the new salary caps and player payment structure until approximately five minutes before the ARLC’s public announcement,” RLPA chair Deirdre Anderson AM said in a statement following the NRL’s announcement.

“For a governing body to set its own salary cap disrespects the entire player representation movement and the importance of collective bargaining.

“Today’s announcement goes against negotiating in good faith and only damages the trust between the players and the governing body.”

This week, the RLPA outlined exactly what they were campaigning for:

New medical support fund

“In the current CBA players only have 12 months to have any surgeries and rehabilitation paid for that will help fix the injuries they suffered during their careers,” the RLPA have said.

“The players want the game’s first Medical Support Fund to ensure past NRL and NRLW players can have these surgeries covered well into retirement.”


“A CBA for women would provide the contract security players need and the full terms and conditions that would help protect them and their families.”

Better terms for most vulnerable players

“Players need better training wages, better minimum salaries, more contracts and contract certainty, match fees and transition benefits – all to support players but specifically middle and lower-income earners.”

New past players program

“Players’ careers are getting shorter, and the game is faster and harder.

“It can all be over at any moment, and you don’t always get to choose when that moment is. We need to help NRL & NRLW players transition into life beyond the playing field.”

Fair agreement rights

“Agreement rights include hours worked (obligations), number of matches played, wage structures, when players can secure a contract, pregnancy and parental policies, and fines (which are illegal in other workplaces).”

Improved injury hardship fund

“It needs to account for the additional eligible players (more than 250 across 10 women’s teams and The Dolphins) coming into the CBA model.

“It needs to be expanded to also support players who suffer serious injuries and can’t secure a new contract until fully rehabilitated.”

Fair share of revenue

“If players help the game generate more money than it expects, they should get their fair share.

“That share isn’t just going into salaries. Players want it to fund new programs and benefits that will support current, future and past players.”


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