32 NRL ‘heroes’ saved game from salary cap disaster
Some of the NRL's biggest names have been hailed as "heroes" for sacrificing half of their State of Origin payments in a move that kept an NRL-wide COVID-19 forced pay cut to just 6 per cent.
A competition-wide salary cut of up to 10 per cent on the cards when the NRL opened negotiations with the NRL players association, but a 6 per cent pay cut over two years was finally agreed upon on Tuesday.
It means the salary cap for each NRL club will be $9.02 million this year and $9.11 million in 2022.
The figure was made possible after State of Origin players forfeited up to $45,000 each with their match payments slashed from $30,000 a match to $15,000 over the next two years.
The State of Origin sacrifice amounts to a saving of $3 million over two years and has spared low income players from taking a bigger pay cut.
"It is very admirable of the representative players to take a hit so the lesser paid players aren't affected," leading player agent Steve Gillis said.
"They are the real heroes in this because the pay cuts may have been greater. A lot of goodwill has gotten this deal done. The players have already done an outstanding job to keep the game going by adhering to all the COVID protocols and restrictions. This is another sacrifice on their behalf to keep the game going."
Gillis said his players were happy to do their bit to ensure the future of the NRL.
"The RLPA have done a good job representing players with the NRL," Gillis said.
"While it is unfortunate that they have had to take a pay cut we are in very difficult times."
The 6 per cent competition wide pay cut, along with the State of Origin sacrifice, will amount to a saving of $19 million across the next two years.
Club were originally operating with a salary cap of $10 million.
Gillis said the confirmed salary cap would not affect previous, current or future contract negotiations with players.
"We had a forecast of what it would be and have operated as per normal," Gillis said.
"This negotiation hasn't been a roadblock to deals."
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo thanked the players for agreeing to the pay-cuts.
"2020 proved when we do things together, we get a better outcome for everyone," Abdo said.
"Today is another example of that," Abdo said. "I want to thank the players for the professionalism, discipline and sacrifices they have made - not only to ensure the 2020 season proceeded but so the game can remain sustainable long term.
"I also want to thank (RLPA President) Clint Newton for the leadership he has shown in securing a deal that provides security for his players, the game and our joint stakeholders.
"The deal is a fair reflection of the value the players bring to our game and the sacrifices they are prepared to make to ensure we remain strong in the years ahead."
In line to take a pay cut of up to $300,000 over two years, NSW forward Wade Graham described the pay-cuts has reasonable given the exceptional circumstances.
"We understand the significant impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our game," Graham said.
"To help the game recover we believe it's fair that we share in that and play our part by agreeing reasonable reductions to our payments and benefits.
"I'd like to acknowledge my fellow players, we've continued to adapt and overcome the various challenges thrown our way during this period, which is something everyone connected to the game should all be proud of."
Originally published as 32 NRL 'heroes' saved game from salary cap disaster