Strikes by NRL players could be imminent and the NRLW season may not even start, as the war between players and officials over the collective bargaining agreement continues to create tension.
West Tigers chairman Lee Hagipantelis declared the lack of a resolution has put negotiations close to a “point of no return” while NRLW star Ali Brigginshaw warned that male players are willing to go on strike as NRL heavyweights drag their feet.
Last December the NRL announced salary cap increases for both its mens and women‘s competitions of 25 per cent and 152 per cent respectively, but didn’t address significant issues including ongoing insurance for female players and post-career medical insurance.
Hagipantelis, who is also the principal of Brydens Lawyers and whose team is one of two expansion sides set to join the NRLW, said the season may not even start if a deal can’t be reached.
“We’re reaching a critical stage, there’s no doubt. These negotiations have been going for quite some time now,” he told SEN Radio on Tuesday.
“It’s reaching the point of no return. If it continues on like this with this degree of uncertainty, it may put the NRLW at risk for 2023. I know that’s a big call.
“But at the moment, the lack of information that’s coming to us as to the signing of players, scheduling and the like is making it incredibly difficult, if not impossible, for us to further that program.”
Brigginshaw, who was named player of the match in Australia‘s World Cup final win last year, said both male and female athletes were running out of patience for a resolution to the protracted negotiations.
While male players are covered by the previous CBA, female players have nothing in place and many aren’t training for fear of injuring themselves and having no access to insurance.
She said the NRL might want to avoid calling the players’ bluff because they will stand up for their fight.
“I think they (the NRL) think the men will just turn around and play, but they are all holding their ground and they won’t be playing until things are sorted,” she told SEN.
“They are fully supported by the RLPA.
“It’s going to be a hairy couple of weeks, I guess, because the men’s games are just about to start and they need to get it sorted.
“We’re fighting for them and they’re fighting for us.”
The NRL season is set to start on the first weekend in March, with the NRLW season to begin in June.