Karl fires up: ‘They look like idiots’


Karl Stefanovic has hit out at the Rugby League Players Association (RLPA) as the union's boss denies claims of a messy pay war between players and the NRL.

Reports emerged yesterday stars were threatening to boycott a return to training next week, where they were to receive mandatory biosecurity briefings, if exact details of how big a pay cut they need to take could not be finalised.

With the Warriors refusing to fly from New Zealand to an Australian base until they also get clarity over wages as well as whether families can join them, it was intended as a show of solidarity.

However, RLPA chief Clint Newton stressed terms and conditions are the sticking point, not wages. "There is no player revolt, there is no pay dispute right now because we actually don't have any numbers, we don't have the figures, we don't know what's available to actually distribute to clubs, players and other stakeholders," Newton said on Thursday night.

"We can't actually be in any type of pay dispute if we don't actually know the numbers."

Yesterday's reports sparked a backlash in some sections against NRL players for digging their heels in while people around the country do it far worse than them. Stefanovic took aim at the RLPA and accused the players of being "out of step with the rest of the country".

"They can deal with the (pay) negotiations outside of actually showing up (to training), that's the thing for me," he said on Today.

"The Players Association have not led this well at all. They look like idiots."

The NRL said it intends on paying players as close to 80 per cent of their wages for 2020 as possible but exact figures remain unclear.

Cameron Smith was one the senior players reportedly leading the charge not to go back to work until a pay deal was reached.
Cameron Smith was one the senior players reportedly leading the charge not to go back to work until a pay deal was reached.



The NRL has admitted there is a risk of "widespread" transmission among players if one individual becomes infected with coronavirus.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports the league made the claim in its biosecurity plan, which was delivered to state and federal governments this week in the hope of being given the green light to restart its season on May 28 as planned.

"The nature of the contact during training and during the game is such that transmission from an infected individual would potentially be widespread to others in the environment," one paragraph in the document reportedly reads.

Former Wallaby turned journalist Peter FitzSimons, who has been an outspoken critic of the NRL's ambition to resume its season later this month, said on Twitter it was a "staggering" admission from the governing body, which has repeatedly said it will enforce the strictest isolation measures to ensure the safety of all players and staff when the campaign gets back up and running.

Question marks have arisen over whether the NRL will be able to guarantee all players follow the biosecurity rules put in place after stars Nathan Cleary, Latrell Mitchell and Josh Addo-Carr were all fined this week for breaching NSW social distancing restrictions.


Today shapes as another D-Day for the NRL with the code confident it will have positive answers on Queensland clubs and the Warriors by the start of the weekend.

National cabinet is set to meet to discuss frameworks around the return to sport at all levels, with the league the most forward in its plans to resume on May 28.

That looms as the most crucial decision yet for the NRL, with health officials to decide how to advise states on whether the game can return and in what form.

The league has provided health officials with its own draft biosecurity measures, which it claims to be the benchmark for all sports. They include the power to move players if they are in a risk zone and banning public exercise outside of club headquarters.

If approved, it should open the door for the states.

The Queensland Government will decide whether to let players train and play in the state and cross the border to NSW. That could in theory save North Queensland, Brisbane and the Gold Coast from having to enter camp in NSW, saving the players from leaving their family and the game a significant financial cost.

Everyone wants footy back, but governments need to sign off first.
Everyone wants footy back, but governments need to sign off first.

The NRL has met with Queensland health officials this week, and remains positive about the outcome.

The same challenge also awaits Melbourne, although the lack of border restrictions in Victoria will make life slightly easier regardless. Crucially, it is also set to determine the Warriors' fate.

The NRL remains hopeful the New Zealand-based club will be given an exemption to travel to Australia and take up camp in Tamworth, training while in quarantine. That would again ensure that all NRL clubs are able to return to practice next week, paving the way for the planned restart.

"The meeting should give more clarity and direction for the Queensland-based clubs and New Zealand," players' union chief Clint Newton said.

"What we've always said is the work that has gone into the consultation process and the efforts that Peter (V'landys) and the NRL executive team and everyone has done to work with governments to provide clarity for everyone is first class.

"What we would hope is that support continues and players are committing to work through that process and they are told the protocols that are looking to be enforced next week."

There were however concerns from some officials this week that the social isolation breaches of high-profile players could impact the game. Sports minister Richard Colbeck claimed that Mitchell, Addo-Carr and Cleary had put the game's return at risk.

Mitchell and Addo-Carr were both fined $1000 by NSW Police, while Cleary was let off with a warning but hit with a fine by the game.

COVID-19 numbers have dropped significantly since the game was put on hiatus, with active cases at 946 in Australia on Thursday compared to 1762 on March 23.

With AAP