NRL players to feel financial burden of ongoing scandals
THERE is a real prospect next year's NRL salary cap could be reduced due to poor player behaviour.
NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg has confirmed that under the collective bargaining agreement, footballers could also face the financial brunt of a spate of scandals affecting the code.
Under the agreement, a provision states "adverse changes" can allow the NRL to downwardly revise player payments and reduce the salary cap.
"We've got clauses in our collective bargaining agreement that if the game suffers financially, at an aggregated number, then everyone feels the pain and that includes the players," Greenberg told The Sunday Telegraph.
"When you talk about genuine partnership it works on the upside, but equally it works on the downside."
The agreement includes a provision where if the NRL has a $10 million reduction compared with an initial forecast - or clubs and the NRL have a $15 million reduction - then revenue player payments could be revised.
Greenberg is working hard to restore faith in the code and has announced a ''no fault'' stand-down policy for footballers charged with serious crimes.
The NRL boss also revealed he had changed tact in his annual presentation at clubs this preseason. In recent months he has increased a focus on player leadership in an effort to "collectively" improve the game.
In past preseasons, Greenberg would usually sit in a lecture theatre, or similar, spending an hour giving a PowerPoint presentation to the playing group.
This year, he and the chief operating officer - head of integrity Nick Weeks - have been engaging in more informal, roundtable discussions with core groups of senior players, which have been "fantastic", "challenging" and productive.
"It's not talking at them, but talking with them. We've been having good discussions around a table about expectations of our senior players and the role they can play inside their club," Greenberg said.
After a "train wreck" of an off-season, including a spate of allegations of violence against women - including most recently Penrith's Tyrone May being charged with two counts of allegedly filming sexual acts with women without consent and two counts of disseminating sexual acts with two women without their knowledge and consent - Greenberg has asked the senior players to take a greater leadership role.
"What I think the changes we can make is getting the senior players to understand that they have probably the greatest influence over younger players that are in those squads," Greenberg said.
"That younger players fundamentally look up to them. People think that when a CEO or a chairman walk into the room that the players take notice, but the people who they take most notice of are their peers, the peers they look up to.
"When Cameron Smith sits around the rest of his team, those players idolise him. They look up to him and they respect him.
"What he says matters. That's the point I am trying to get through to the rest of the senior groups of players - your words and actions really matter and have massive influence over your teammates.
"When you see something you are not comfortable with or it doesn't align with your own values, don't walk past it. Step forward and be the leader the game needs you to be."
Greenberg said he hoped to develop a leadership training program in all 16 clubs for a core group of players, influential administrators and coaches.
He pointed out while many players were naturally elected to leadership positions, they might have not done a lot of formal training to get them there.
"A lot of the times in rugby league we need to develop our leaders. A lot of them are born very talented footballers, but may not be born as pure leaders," Greenberg said.
"I think we have a huge duty of care to consistently put tools and resources to help them become the leaders we either want them to be or they want to be themselves.
"I get a sense there is an opportunity here, that the change we are making, can genuinely come from within, within those really good senior players.
"We have so many really strong, passionate, good principled men in these clubs and I want them to have that voice, to feel really confident and empowered to stand up around their teammates and call out inappropriate or behaviour that they feel doesn't align to their values.
"I said to a player the other day, you can have values on the wall but you have got to value your own values. You've got to believe it and walk that talk every day. I think there is a real appetite to have these discussions."
The greatest challenge comes from within the code when facing these issues.
No player should think they are bigger than the game - but some clearly do.