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NRL 2023: Knights can start planning premiership defence with NRLW deal almost done

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Newcastle premiership-winning coach Ron Griffiths says the proposed NRLW collective bargaining agreement is fantastic news for players who can finally concentrate on footy rather than worrying about getting injured with no safety plans in place.

A report in Tuesday morning’s Daily Telegraph says the NRL is very close to finalising a historic deal in which salary caps could reach $1.5m per team by 2027.

The delayed CBA negotiations have caused friction between the players and head office, with threats of a pre-season boycott by the men if their female counterparts weren’t properly looked after.

But it looks like things are heading in the right direction, with every club to have 24 players and four development players, support for pregnant players, an increased minimum wage and a 25-week season by 2025, which includes pre-season training.

Certainty around a women’s CBA is a huge relief for players and coaches who are bracing for a signing frenzy as they try to sort out their squads in the next few months ahead of an expanded 10-team competition.

“I think it’s been somewhat frustrating for players and the game to try to get it sorted, but it’s fantastic that they’ve seemingly reached an agreement,” Griffiths told the NCA NewsWire.

“The (ongoing delays) have affected the girls being able to play in their domestic competitions for fear of getting injured and having something in place in case they miss the back-end of the year.

“There’s been a lot of uncertainty with that, so this gives them a little peace of mind and allows them to concentrate on playing, which is something they want to do.”

Griffiths knows the importance of building a roster after the Knights landed big names like Millie Boyle and Tamika Upton to help them win the NRLW title in just their second season.

It was a meteoric rise for Newcastle who didn’t win a game in its first season but showed the rest of the league how quickly things can turn around with some astute talent identification.

Griffiths says he has enough time to bring together another strong squad despite not being able to make any promises to his players so far in terms of finances.

“We really haven’t been able to do anything, but what we have been able to do is let our players know what our long-term vision is and what the plans are for our female athletes. We want them to be a part of that,” he said.

“I think people get caught up in the finances of what we can offer, but there are a lot of other things that we can sit down and talk about in terms of our strategic planning for our female athletes.”

That long-term planning is hard to sell when players only sign short-term contracts, which is why Griffiths would like to see multi-year deals that would give players job security and a goal they can build towards instead of constantly moving around.

“It means that each year you end up chasing your tail trying to sign 24 players,” he said as he prepares to rebuild his roster.

“It also allows our players to have some stability rather than having to move every six months to play footy. It gives them some continuity and stability in their personal lives to be able to set up somewhere where they can enjoy their time at a club.”

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