The National Rugby League has met with representatives of the Rugby League Players’ Association to discuss arrangements for the draw in the coming years and how the NRL and RLPA will work together throughout the process to deliver improved player wellbeing outcomes.
The meeting comes as North Queensland Toyota Cowboys co-captains Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott expressed concern that five-day turnarounds had not been abolished in the 2016 NRL draw, which was released on Friday 27 November.
Critical to delivering improved player wellbeing outcomes will be the control of the draw from 2018, which the NRL secured in its recent negotiations with broadcasters, concluded on Friday last week.
NRL Head of Football Todd Greenberg said the NRL’s preliminary work had confirmed the ability to achieve a number of important outcomes through the control of the draw, of which improved player wellbeing outcomes was central.
Mr Greenberg said the talks had been productive and agreed further work would be done over the next fortnight, prior to the next ARL Commission meeting.
“Player wellbeing is a priority for the NRL and we are very mindful of the feedback from the playing group that they wish to see a decrease in five-day turnarounds,” Mr Greenberg said.
“We have a unique situation in 2016 where we will have premiership matches from Thursday to Monday regularly and that created some challenges in terms of turnarounds.
“We were in a position during the recent broadcast negotiations to generate a significant amount of future revenue for the game by having a further season of matches across five days – from Thursday to Monday – in 2016.
“But our broadcast partners were ultimately supportive of our very clear stance that player wellbeing is a priority and, given our desire to improve upon the current incidences of short turnarounds, Monday Night Football would not form part of the schedule from 2017.
“I have told RLPA General President Clint Newton and Chief Executive Ian Prendergast today that we are targeting a 25 per cent reduction in five-day turnarounds in the 2017 season.”
Both parties have acknowledged that it was not possible to change next year’s draw.
However Mr Newton says he appreciates the willingness of the game’s broadcast partners to engage with the association and the NRL on player wellbeing in future.
Mr Newton says the focus now is on resolving the concerns raised for the coming season.
“We have had a robust and productive discussion today with the NRL and have come out of the meeting with a list of actions for both parties,” said Mr Newton.
“The NRL has undertaken to explore a number of measures designed to offset the impact of the five-day turnaround in 2016.
“The RLPA objective now is to finalise a proposal that will be put to the Commission when it meets on 14 December with a view to resolving the immediate concerns of the playing group and outstanding matters surrounding the CBA mid-term review.”
The NRL acknowledged that it did not follow the consultation process as agreed with the RLPA but will take the necessary steps to ensure the Association is properly consulted in future.
Prior to Tuesday’s meeting between the NRL and the RLPA, Thurston said of ongoing negotiations between the two bodies: "We don't want to be threatening in any way but it has just got to come to a point where the players have had enough.
"I am very disappointed and also angry. We thought we had made some progress up until this point.
"It is pretty poor that they promised us a seat at the table (before the draw was negotiated) and they don't take us up on that.
"But we have taken quite a few steps backwards here."
Scott echoed Thurston’s sentiments when speaking to the media following the club’s first day of official pre-season training.
Mr Greenberg said of the issue: “We are continuing to analyse the impact of training workloads on players.
“We have proposed to undertake a joint initiative with the RLPA to research and identify what impact five-day turnarounds, training loads, travel as well as the duration of the playing season have on players.
“We held positive talks today with the RLPA and we will continue to do so in order to find the best possible outcome for all of our stakeholders.”
Thirty-one five-day turnarounds have been scheduled for the first 20 rounds of the 2016 NRL season, with six rounds still yet to be scheduled.
First published on nrl.com