NRL players have been asked to take a pay cut of up to 87 per cent as the league braces for the worst-case scenario of an abandoned season due to coronavirus.
And NRL great Cooper Cronk says players should agree to the massive financial hit and do “whatever it takes” to ensure the game’s survival.
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The Rugby League Players Association board were set to meet on Thursday night to discuss their response to the staggering pay cut after being handed the doomsday option on Wednesday.
Both the league and the players’ union are then due to convene again on Friday, when it’s hoped a deal will be finalised to give the game a clearer picture of its future.
The development follows advice from the NRL’s pandemic expert this week that the 2020 season will be a complete wipeout.
That scenario could leave several clubs in a dire financial position with questions raised over whether all 16 clubs would survive into 2021.
But Cronk believed agreeing to take the huge pay cut would provide the players a chance to “give back”.
“Players who buy into the rewards of it, we have to buy into the downside,” he told Fox League.
“We asked for the collective bargaining agreement when I was playing, now … they have to do whatever it takes.
“This game has been a blessing, and I think players need to give back a little bit.
“I think the players of today can be pioneers of the next generation if they do the right thing.
“In 10 weeks, 10 months’ time they need to look back and say we made the right decision.”
The 87 per cent cut would likely change if the competition starts earlier, but the parties are working on a worst-case scenario and are going backwards from there.
Any deal would likely come into effect until the end of this year’s season, with players having already been paid 40 per cent of their annual salary.
A tiered system of player cuts remains the high est priority for both the NRL and RLPA, shielding minimum-wage players from having next to no income.
Regardless, the pay cut would affect up to 500 NRL players and their families.
Players will reportedly receive $3000 a month – whether they are Cameron Smith or a minimum wage roster member – if the season was abandoned.
Former Penrith great Greg Alexander admitted it would be a sobering reality check for players who just last week had been simply concentrating on footy.
“I think the players would have been expecting 50 per cent plus (cuts) … to have an 80 to 90 per cent cut, that means the players become like everyone else in society,” he told Fox League.
“They will have to start ringing banks and saying ‘I need some help’.”
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said minimising the damage to fringe roster members during the shutdown had been the chief concern for the players.
“There wasn’t one of those players who were concerned about their own financial future,” Greenberg said of the game’s elite players on Fox League Mornings.
“It was a nice, warming thing to hear the players have that view around their colleagues.”
Meanwhile, Greenberg said it was important the NRL and RLPA showed a united front after reiterating League Central had sent 95 per cent of their employees home on leave for three weeks while clubs were working with a skeleton staff.
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