Stalled CBA negotiations beginning to severely impact the NRLW

The negotiations around the Collective Bargaining Agreement continue to drag on with seemingly no end in sight, causing significant impact on players in the NRLW.

“One of the major pieces in this is the women’s CBA,” Rugby League Players’ Association CEO, Clint Newton, told Big Sports Breakfast. “This is the first time we’ll have a women’s CBA- we’re the last major code to do it.”

The NRLW is currently in limbo despite four additional teams being established for next year’s competition and its popularity continuing to surge. 

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“We’ve seen the rise and rise of the NRLW competition over the last few years,” Newton said. 

“I make no apologies about my feelings towards the NRLW. I truly believe it will be the most dominant domestic code in this country within the next one to two years.”

However, due to the lack of an updated CBA, players and clubs have been left with no clarity around their futures with rosters still largely undecided heading into Christmas. 

The NRLW clubs have not been given a salary cap figure yet upon which to start operating under, leaving plenty of players without deals for next season until this is stipulated in the CBA. 

Jillaroos star and former Dally M medal winner Emma Tonegato is just one of the players who has been left in the dark with the lack of an agreement.  

“In terms of clubs, I have had a few meetings here and there, but I can’t really decide on anything until things are sorted,” Tonegato told the NCA NewsWire.

She played for St George last season and would like to remain turn out for the Dragons again in 2023, although she is still unsure whether this will eventuate.

“It’s up in the air at the moment,” Tonegato said.

“I live in Wollongong, so it would make sense for me to stay, but I’ve also had a few conversations elsewhere, so I’m not sure what I’m going to do.”

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Newton noted how the hold-up was hurting everyone in the game from the administrators through to the fans. But he remained positive a deal would finally be struck that would suit all parties. 

“Our claims are really being established on fair and strong foundations, which is about players getting their fair share,” he said.

“There’s only so much money to go around and we understand that the women’s game is a critical investment we need to make.

“So, the men are trying to track in-line with what they’ve historically been on and then the women are a necessary inclusion.

“Of course, that is going to increase the total percentage share to players. But if you’re just looking cycle to cycle, players are not looking for any increases really in that space.”

For Tonegato and hundreds of other women in the game, the deal can’t come soon enough, as not only are they uncertain over salary matters but also on the timeframe of when the comp actually commences. 

This has put a strain on them in regard to their full-time jobs outside of the sport. 

“The CBA is a bit tricky, so I’m just trying to figure out where we stand, when the competition will start and what we’re going to do for work,” Tonegato said.

“I work full-time, so I need to know if I’m going to transition into part-time work or focus full-time on footy next year.

“It’s all up in the air at the moment and that’s really frustrating when I’m trying to sort out my life because I need to let my employers know what’s happening.

“Hopefully, the NRL and the RLPA can sort something out soon. I know the RLPA have been advocating strongly for us, so hopefully an agreement can be reached soon.”

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Newton praised the work of the top stars within the NRL for their foresight in taking the whole of the sport into their considerations during the talks.

“It would be very easy for the players to say, ‘Just dump it into salaries, please Clint’ because ultimately what that will result in is a big, big influx of money going to the top-end of town and the players at the bottom will get left behind,” he said.

“What they are doing is saying ‘No, don’t do that’. They’re being responsible and are very deliberate with how they want that money invested.

“We want to get a deal done that we can all be proud of and point to and say, ‘Hey, mums and dads of the world, get your daughter and your son to come and play rugby league’ because if they do play our code, they’re going to have the best terms and conditions.”

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