Wade Graham has explained how players and clubs in the NRL are currently operating in “good faith” when signing new contracts, while the future salary cap is yet to be defined due to the ongoing dispute with the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
“Most players have signed without the guarantee of where the salary cap will be,” he told SEN.
The salary cap isn’t the ‘be all and end all’ of the CBA negotiations
The Cronulla skipper revealed there was still plenty of work to do between the Rugby League Players’ Association, the Australian Rugby League Commission and the NRL to hash out the terms of a new CBA.
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Yet Graham was confident a deal would be made soon, which would allow for the game to move forward with a sense of clarity around funding future projects and salary cap figures.
“At the moment, players and clubs are pretty much working off good faith of where we expect the salary cap to be,” he said.
“They’ll probably have a clause in their contract where if the percentage goes up or down, your contract figure will match that percentage in the cap. So, that detail you can safeguard yourself against.”
Graham noted that while the salary cap was a hugely significant part of the CBA, there were plenty of other factors which weighed into the overall negotiations.
“I know the salary cap always gets highlighted in these negotiations,” he admitted.
“Although the salary cap is an important part of it, it’s not the be all and end all.
“It’s where the rest of the funding comes from, where it goes, who has the say over how the programs are run- the governance of it and the autonomy of it, depending on which share the money comes out of.”
Graham cited how a significant factor in the negotiations was the fight for access to certain aspects of the game’s revenue, with the RLPA wanting to take control over funding in some quarters to spend on programs they deemed necessary.
“The players, obviously through the association, will work out how much we can spend on programs like well-being, education, past-player funds and injury hardship funds,” he said. “They’re the finer points.”
The clubs have also been left in the dark with their finances due to the impasse and have yet to be given a fixed figure for future operations which is already threatening to hurt the game at a grassroots level.
“It’s around the funding for the clubs- how much that is going to sit around,” Graham said.
“And the programs they need to run with budgeting themselves for employment next year and the years to come.
“Junior pathways programs- that’s the sort of things that clubs will be looking to implement once they know what their funding will be.”
Will NRL stars suffer a public backlash over the CBA negotiations?
Harry Grant came out in the media and strongly opposed the NRL’s handling of the situation, accusing them of unfairly treating the players in regard to the CBA agreement.
“I’ve got strong thoughts- for us as players it’s our livelihood,” he said.
“We just need to get something sorted for everyone’s sake. We’ve put enough into this game, for what we get out of it they are lowballing us at the moment, the NRL.
“Everyone thinks you’re playing NRL and you’re on good coin, but the reality is that you’re not.
“I think a development contract is $60,000. Some blokes would be better off going to work on the tools.”
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However, Graham denied the public perception of players and their demands around the salary cap could turn negative the longer the discussions dragged on.
“I feel like if the players are getting out of line, or the RLPA were getting out of line with what they were asking for or seeking, I’d be the first to put my hand up and pull them back a bit,” Graham said.
“But I don’t think that anything the RLPA has proposed or put forward is unfair or not reasonable.
“I think all the claims put forward are well worked out and more than fair and reasonable. Our contribution is just about holding the line there and pushing for the best outcomes we can over the term.
“If the perceptions could hurt the players in that sense, I myself would be one of the first to put my hand up and say, ‘Hang on a minute’, but that’s not the case.”