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NRL 2023: United players could strike if the CBA isn’t sorted out soon

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Industrial action remains a key weapon in the Rugby League Players Association’s arsenal, with Bulldogs hooker Reed Mahoney revealing a boycott has been discussed as the collective bargaining agreement stalemate drags on.

The RLPA is fed up with the game’s governing body, with players receiving an email on Wednesday about potential action to be taken ahead of the inaugural NRL pre-season challenge that kicks off in New Zealand on Thursday night.

Players were told that kick-offs could be delayed, NRL logos on their jerseys covered up and all external media barred if Thursday’s deadline wasn’t met.

The CBA is delayed by more than three months, with NRLW players still seeking a historic deal as they wait for key information around their expanded competition.

The thought of players going on strike is at the extreme end of the scale, but Mahoney warned the NRL that it was on the cards if things didn’t improve in the coming weeks.

“It can happen – and we don’t want it to go that far – but there has been talks of it,” said Mahoney, who is Canterbury’s delegate to the RLPA.

“We want it done as much as they do, but we’ve got to stand strong. You’ve seen how united the playing group is. The players want to be looked after and the NRL needs to see that.

“That (striking) can be what can happen, but hopefully we don’t get that far.

“It’s been a long process and there’s quite a battle on now. Us as players, we’re united and we’re standing tall for what we believe is right for us.

“We hope that the NRL can come to the party as well and we can move on so we can play the game that we love, which is NRL. Hopefully, that can be done soon.”

The biggest sticking point for the players is a hardship fund that they want to set up to ensure players are looked after properly once they retire, instead of the 12-month window they have for financial support for surgery.

Mahoney and the rest of the league are also pushing hard for female players to be looked after, including 12-month contracts and proper insurance to give them security in a world where most of them work at least two jobs.

“They’re the big main factors at the moment,” said Mahoney, who joined other players like Isaah Yeo and Christian Welch who have hit out at the CBA discussions this week.

“The women’s game is growing rapidly, and the men’s game fully supports them. They deserve to have a CBA and they should because their game is growing.

“The other stuff like the funds, we’re entitled to that and I feel like we’re the product and we’re putting our bodies on the line during pre-season and games. We have the right to have those funds open to us when the game does stop.”

New Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo wasn’t aware of the latest developments but hopes to see it all sorted soon.

“The boys are obviously going through some stuff with that, but it hasn’t got too much to do with me,” he said.

“We’re just worrying about football, and hopefully it all works out soon. I haven’t got too much to say about that.”

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