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RLPA: May 28 not under threat if players delay training return

RLPA chief executive Clint Newton says the NRL's proposed May 28 restart date will not be threatened despite being players being prepared to forego their scheduled return to training next week.

The players' union is seeking "further information" on several issues 72 hours before more than 500 squad members are due back at clubs for Monday's biosecurity briefings and the resumption of physical training on Tuesday.

Newton was at pains to stress the RLPA's delay "is not a pay dispute" but how the players revenue is broken down over the rest of the NRL financial year is however a key issue.

A host of the game's biggest names raised concerns over their Warriors counterparts during a phone hook-up on Wednesday night.

Despite an overall commitment to take their place in a revamped competition, angst has grown among Warriors players around remuneration and potential for their families to join them in Australia given an indefinite stay looms.

Fifty players and staff from the Auckland-based franchise are due to depart New Zealand on Sunday.

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Asked whether the playing body would front for duty on Monday, Newton said "We're certainly working towards that, but ultimately we're still working on getting that detail from the NRL.

"And we've always maintained that we need that detail."

Dragons veteran and RLPA player advisor James Graham said he and fellow players are prepared to sit out Monday's return to training date unless "assurances" are provided by League HQ.

"If nothing changes I can’t see it (us training),” Graham told Fox League on Thursday evening.

"Until we have those things signed off on - there may even be a legal side to it - but the feeling in the group is our position hasn’t changed, and we need those assurances before we can turn up to our place of work."

But Newton is adamant a delayed return to training will not derail the game's overall bid to resume a 20-round season in less than a month's time.

"We wouldn't suggest that," Newton said.

"We still believe that there's ample time for the players to get ready for May 28.

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"Given the fact the players are still working, they're just under different conditions at the moment. Players are still training, players are still getting various training programs. They're still performing their obligations, it's just under a different structure."

Issues the RLPA is seeking further information on include:

  • How biosecurity measures will work and be enforced; 
  • Insurance and health protections for players, staff and club officials;
  • Medical and injury management support for players;
  • Wellbeing and welfare support of players and their families; 
  • Transparency of NRL revenue within a revised competition and resulting player payments; 
  • Details on government exemptions around interstate travel and training.

The player pay negotiations come as talks with broadcasters Nine and Foxtel continue around revised TV rights deals for the rescheduled competition.

The players' pay for May was reached in the initial agreement between the RLPA and NRL on April 2. Once the broadcast rights deals are finalised, the NRL will then be able to give the players clarity on their pay from June onwards.

"The discussions and negotiations with the broadcasters are obviously ongoing and we're really respectful of that," Newton said.

"And we actually want to provide time for the NRL to work through that, which is why we've always maintained the position that May 28 is definitely what we want to work towards, and we've always wanted those things before we could further advance."

The RLPA's existing agreement allows for players to sacrifice five months salary if no games were played again this year.

A minimum share of 29.5 per cent of any net revenue from a rescheduled season was also negotiated by the RLPA with the prospect of coming back for further talks, which is where the parties currently sit.

As for the Warriors, it is hoped an official government exemption will be granted on Friday for players to arrive in Australia and train while observing a two-week quarantine period in Tamworth.

The club is organising a charter flight for its 32 players and 18 staff to depart Auckland on Sunday.

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Newton reiterated the commitment of the Warriors' players to resuming their season and the NRL's desire to provide welfare support as they prepare to cross the Tasman.

"The Warriors have been so professional throughout this process," he said.

"And ultimately we still have to understand that the Warriors are committed to coming over for an unknown period of time. And that's the part that can't be lost in all this.

"Peter [V'landys] has made guarantees around all this, that players, particularly the Warriors, will be properly supported and protected. And then it's about working through that."