The big names in rugby league could all be out on the cards next season, with the NRL and the NRL Players Association reportedly weighing up whether to extend their deals.
The latest NRL players’ union figures show the average salary of the top eight players on the NRL’s salary cap is set to rise to $1.5 million a season.
The union has warned the salary cap will not be raised next season and that clubs will have to offer higher salaries to attract players.
However, a source close to the matter has told The Australian there are some clubs in the NRL who are confident they will get to keep their best players, including the likes of Luke Lewis, Aaron Woods and Mitchell Pearce.
It is understood the players union has agreed to extend the deal at the end of this season, meaning the NRLPA will have a bargaining position to negotiate with the players for next season.
“The players want to continue playing and have a lot of loyalty to the clubs but there is some frustration with the salary ceiling and there are issues around it,” the source said.
“Some clubs have a position where they can get a player to play for them for a low amount and if they are able to get a better deal then they can go and sign a bigger deal elsewhere.”
However, the player union is adamant they are not looking to increase the salary of any players.
“I’m not saying there won’t be some players who will be a bit more expensive than others,” the union source said of players who are set to leave the NRL.
“But it’s about having a deal where we can get our best players in.”
While it is understood that some clubs will be willing to give a few more dollars to the players next season than they would if they were to extend it, that is not necessarily enough to bring the salary in line with other top competitions.
However the NRL could consider adding some more compensation, the source has told the ABC.
“A lot of clubs would like to do that but they’re in a position of not being able to,” the player source said about clubs.
“There is a lot that they can offer, but there are other clubs in other leagues that want to give them more money than they could give them if they could just make the salary the way it is now.”
But the union is also concerned about the impact on the game, particularly the number of players it would cost the clubs to bring back in next season from overseas.
“We don’t want to have the next 10 to 15 years of talent coming through our doors,” the NRL union source told the BBC.
“Players coming in from overseas will be paying a lot more than they are paying now.”
It’s not a question of ‘if’ we have to raise the salary limit but ‘when’ we do.
“Rugby league has the highest number of international players on record, with seven players coming from South Africa, Japan, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga and the United States.
It was reported earlier this year that there were concerns about the future of some players from overseas, with several of the NRL clubs refusing to renew their contracts with players from Australia, New Zealand and England.”
This is the year of the rugby league star, it’s the year that we all become international players,” the AFL’s chief executive, Gillon McLachlan, said.
The NRL will also be taking a number of steps to increase its revenue.
The league is set for an increase in television revenue to $4.5 billion from $3.8 billion this season and it is also planning to double its sponsorship revenue, to $20 million from $13 million this season.
But there are concerns that the increase in revenue could cause some of the biggest clubs in rugby to suffer financially.