The NRL’s record-breaking salary cap announcement on Friday has been met with a backlash in some sections of the rugby league community.
After a bitter negotiation it has been announced that the NRL salary cap will increase a whopping 25 per cent from $9.6m this year to $12.1m in 2023.
The cap for top 30 squads will be set at a record-breaking $11.45m thanks to the game’s strong financial position.
While CBA negotiations have yet to be finalized nearly two months after they were due, Friday’s announcement is a huge win for the majority of players from the top down to those on the minimum wage.
However, some sections of the game have reacted angrily at the agreed salary cap for the NRL Women’s Premiership next season.
The NRLW cap has also increased substantially, with clubs now able to spend $884,000 per season, up 153 per cent on 2022 figures, although they are still waiting to find out when their competition starts in 2023.
That increase from the 2022 figure of $350,000, plus two marquee players, is an increase of $534,000.
At the same time the NRL cap has increased by $2.5 million.
NRLW Players and coaches have complained for weeks that they can’t offer or accept deals given they didn’t know what the cap was for the expanded 10-team competition, with Friday’s announcement likely to lead to a signing frenzy after the Christmas break.
ARLC chairman Peter V’landys said of the deal: “They’ve had the biggest increase of anyone.
“Don’t forget there are 10 teams, so we’ve invested heavily in the women’s game and rightly so.
“This is a big announcement for the women, and I think over a period of time we’re going to be investing around $117m into the women’s game, which is substantial.”
It has still sparked an angry response from some.
Channel 7 rugby league reporter Katie Brown was scathing in her assessment of the breakdown.
She posted on Twitter: “Lol “record breaking” deals for the NRL ($12.1 million) and NRLW ($884,000). You’re giving a whole women’s playing group ONE man’s salary. What a joke.
To be clear, I am not suggesting they should be paid the same as the men. There’s no draw or CBA confirmed so how can you determine their salary cap… that’s my concern.”
Sports commentator Lavender Baj posted on Twitter: “For context: Kalyn Ponga did not win a premiership for the Knights, but makes more than the entire NRLW team that brought home the trophy for the first time in two decades.
“Also before anyone comes for me I am not s****ing on the huge increase for the women’s game, which is undoubtedly a great thing. Just adding perspective because the Knights girls are the only team worth the club’s investment to be quite honest.
“Especially after the girls just won another World Cup, the talent in our domestic league is undeniable.”
V’landys spoke with pride about the arrangement and the sport’s financial position.
“We wanted to give certainty to the players and clubs to be able to negotiate new deals having certainty on the salary cap,” V’landys told the NCA NewsWire.
“In addition to that, we’ve put up payments to clubs by 200 per cent and we’re still going to return a reasonably good profit this year.
“The NRL is in the best financial position it’s ever been, and we believe we can do even better.”
Players on development deals also stand to win big with payments increasing from $240,000 up to $650,000, with the minimum salary for all NRL top 30 players rising to $120,000.
While the news is a huge relief to everyone in the game, there are some players who will be extra happy.
Anyone with a standard form ratchet clause in their contract will receive an 18 per cent increase to their salary, with the bump to apply to any payments from November 1 onwards.
It was smart business by the players and their agents who gambled on an increased cap.
“We wanted to give certainty to the players and the clubs, but in particular we wanted to give a Christmas bonus to players who had ratchet clauses in their contract,” V’landys said.
“Their contracts actually started from November 1, so this increase will be backdated under the ratchet clauses which means they’ll be back paid.”
The NRL and RLPA are still negotiating the CBA, with a resolution not expected until the new year.
“We’ll continue in good faith,” V’landys said.
“This doesn’t change our good faith negotiations.”