NRL 2021: League advisory groups demand respect

Rugby league is facing some big issues on the player advancement and welfare front, and its elite-level participants want to make sure their voices are heard.

The men’s and women’s rugby league Player Advisory Groups have joined forces to address key issues for players, including a CBA for the NRLW and the abandonment of “disproportionate proposal to increase player fines”.

In a historic move, both advisory boards held a first joint meeting on Tuesday night to discuss issues of critical importance to player welfare and conditions.

The coming together of the two advisory bodies, whose members are drawn from the NRL and NRLW competitions, demonstrates the strength of their shared objectives and feelings on several key matters that are impacting the playing group.

They believe it is vital the players’ voice is not only heard, but respected.

Both advisory boards declared their meeting “disappointingly” comes on the backdrop of repeated failures to agree on key matters.

The PAG forum identified the following key issues impacting players and is calling on the NRL to act swiftly on:

*The development and implementation of a Collective Bargaining Agreement for female players, as rugby league remains the only major sport in Australia without a women’s CBA in place.

*Abandoning its current and disproportionate proposal to increase player fines, which is misguided and significantly inconsistent with other Australian and New Zealand sporting codes.

*Contract security for the NRLW, which remains a pivotal element of the expanded 2022 season, achieved through the NRL working with the RLPA to develop a system that is fair and provides a structure that meets the needs of all the female players while benefiting the game.

*Immediately addressing the process for implementing and communicating rule changes, as the process for rule changes throughout the 2021 season is of significant concern for the playing group.

According to the Advisory Groups, these decisions were made without the RLPA directly involved, which deprived the process of the collective feedback from those with intimate on-field knowledge and those most impacted by the changes.

They believe it is vital that the RLPA is directly involved in any review of the 2021 season, allowing the views of those who actively participated to be heard.

It is expected the RLPA’s involvement in both rule review and implementation will be a prerequisite moving forward.

The RLPA submitted a proposal to the NRL several months ago, outlining an improved alternative integrity framework, and how it is vital the NRL engages with them to deliver the game a more fair, transparent and consistent system.

The PAGs also called on the NRL and ARL Commission to increase engagement with the playing body via the RLPA and to do so in good faith.

There is a united position among the player groups that the NRL administration works with the RLPA on behalf of the players to ensure there is a genuine commitment regarding the players’ collective involvement in future decisions.

Both Player Advisory Groups will continue to meet regularly to discuss initiatives that benefit the collective playing group and, together with the RLPA, will develop its views to improve the welfare and livelihoods of the players and advance the interests of the game.

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