NRL eases on trade window push

The NRL has eased its push for a post-season trade window, proposing players be able to sign with rival clubs from June 30 as an olive branch in the pay war.

WADE GRAHAM. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

The NRL has relinquished its push for a strict post-season trade window, proposing players be able to sign with rival clubs for the following year after June 30, in a bid to smooth fractious pay talks.

The league's desire for a transfer window has been one of several factors in the dispute between the NRL and its players, with a collective bargaining agreement two-and-a-half months overdue.

Tensions between the parties reached boiling point this week, with players boycotting all promotional activities and refusing to rule out strike action.

The Rugby League Players Association board were due to meet Wednesday night, with terms of the NRL's latest offer sent to the union late last week.

It's expected the board will reject the proposal, with players having pushed on with the promotional boycott after the terms were sent.

AAP has been told one of the changes in the NRL's offered terms is to the proposed transfer system.

Under current rules in the old CBA, off-contract players are able to sign with rival clubs for 2025 from as early as November 1, 2023.

An NRL proposal last year had pushed that date out until after the 2024 grand final, giving players 11 less months to negotiate.

That was met with firm resistance from the players, who claimed careers were being placed at risk if an off-contract player was injured.

The NRL's new proposal would remove some of that risk while still tightening the system, with players able to sign deals for 2025 from July 2024.

The league would also introduce a mid-season transfer window between round 10 and the end of State of Origin as previously mooted.

The NRL remains adamant it has have offered a good deal to the players, with a total player payment pool of $1.347 billion over five years, an increase of 35 per cent on the last five-year CBA.

That figure includes an $11.45 million salary cap for top-30 squad members at each club, up from $9.6 million, as well as a combined $650,000 for development players on a club's list.

The women's salary cap has also risen to $884,000 from $350,000 with more games to be played.

The announcement of the salary caps last December angered the union, as they questioned how anything could be finalised without other components of the agreement settled.

The union and NRL also differ on whether the total payment pool has increased in line with the game's revenue, with an extra men's team and inclusion of eight women's sides muddying the water.

AAP can also reveal NRL terms received by the players' union last week include more than $200 million in funding for welfare, retired players' injury fund and other matters over the life of the CBA.

How such money is administrated is set to remain a point of contention.

The RLPA is adamant it wants autonomy on it, while the NRL would rather program management is shared.

Agreement rights on integrity matters are among other priorities for the RLPA which are unlikely to be granted by the NRL.

RLPA director and Cronulla captain Wade Graham claimed on SEN radio on Wednesday that the NRL offer had "gone backwards" on previous CBAs.

"It goes to show how determined the players are that they are willing to take this stand," Graham said.

"We all feel like the approach we have taken so far hasn't really got us too far. We haven't progressed. Talks have stalled. The proposal has gone backwards.

"The players are united in this."