National Rugby League agrees players pay cut, 'full steam ahead' for restart

New Zealand Warriors rugby league team players disembark from a plane after arriving in Tamworth late on May 3, 2020, after the National Rugby League (NRL) secured an exemption for the team to enter the country ahead of a planned resumption of the sport.
New Zealand Warriors rugby league team players disembark from a plane after arriving in Tamworth late on May 3, 2020, after the National Rugby League (NRL) secured an exemption for the team to enter the country ahead of a planned resumption of the sport.
Image: PETER PARKS / AFP

Australia's suspended National Rugby League (NRL) has declared it is "full steam ahead" for its May 28 restart after players agreed to 20% pay-cuts for the abridged 2020 season.

Players will be guaranteed 80% of their salary in the 20-round season, which was reduced from 25 rounds due to the impact of the coronavirus.

"It is full steam ahead for the resumption of the competition on May 28," Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V'landys said in a statement on Tuesday.

"All eyes will be on the NRL as the only live sport on television. There will never have been more interest in rugby league than on May 28."

The NRL, Australia's most popular sport in the country's eastern states, has been desperate to resume competition and bring in revenue to ward off a looming financial crisis.

The season was suspended after two rounds in March when travel restrictions and border controls aimed at containing Covid-19 made it untenable.

The pay deal removes another hurdle for the NRL's resumption after governments in the eastern states of Queensland and New South Wales cleared teams to travel between the states for matches.

State borders remain closed for non-essential travel.

The New Zealand Warriors, the competition's only non-Australian team, were given special dispensation to travel to New South Wales on Sunday and are spending two weeks in quarantine at a regional town to secure clearance to play.

Melbourne Storm, the NRL's only team in southern Victoria state, are to base themselves in Albury, a small city on the New South Wales side of the border with Victoria.

Victoria has not given Storm permission to train or host games at its home base in Melbourne.

The Storm were due to start training in Albury on Wednesday but their plans were in doubt on Tuesday due to complaints from the local government council, state media reported.

The complaints had prompted the council to call an extraordinary meeting later on Tuesday to rule on the Storm's visit.

Local councillors said they were not consulted early enough by the state government and one complained that the Storm had been given use of a sports field in the city that was barred to residents due to social distancing rules.

"Having rules that apply to some but not others is a slap in the face to people who have done the right thing," Albury deputy mayor Amanda Cohn told News Ltd media on Tuesday. 


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