14 Sep 2015

Bennett criticises players over pay row

2:46 pm on 14 September 2015

Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett has slammed a proposed player boycott, saying it was taking the focus off the National Rugby League finals.

Wayne Bennett

Wayne Bennett Photo: Photosport

North Queensland star Johnathan Thurston confirmed speculation on Thursday that players would consider boycotting NRL finals events, including the Dally M Awards, over a pay dispute with the league.

The Rugby League Players' Association confirmed the threat was real, saying players had become frustrated with the NRL's response to an ongoing collective bargaining agreement review which began in March.

"I don't think they have put too much thought into it, to be honest with you," Bennett said of the boycott threat.

"We don't want to damage the finals but that is what they are doing.

"I just hope they pull their heads in and not damage the product they talk so dearly about and means so much to them.

"Let us bask in this month of football, the best time of year."

Bennett said the player dispute's timing could not have been worse.

"I am just sad it has happened this week," he said. "We have got the showcase of the season in front of us - the finals - and we are all talking about player disputes now.

"We could have waited another month and it wouldn't have made any difference.

"So I just hope they drop off as quick as they started and everybody can talk about the great game that we have got and what is in front of us the next month."

The NRL released a statement saying they looked forward to renewing talks and addressing issues raised by players when talk of a boycott started on Thursday.

While the five-year collective bargaining agreement between the RLPA and the NRL doesn't expire until 2017, there is a provision for them to review the game's profitability and whether payments or allowances can be increased.

The RLPA began talks with the NRL in March after the league announced a $A50 million surplus for the last financial year.

The NRL recently announced a record new $A925 million free-to-air TV deal beginning in 2018 with Channel Nine.

"It's not about a cash grab or an increase in the salary cap," RLPA president Clint Newton said.

"The players are the game's greatest asset and we feel we have a right to maintain a fair and reasonable share of the revenue."

The NRL finals begin on Friday night when minor Premiers the Sydney Roosters host the fourth-placed Melbourne Storm. Earlier the New Zealand Junior Warriors face the Junior Sydney Roosters in the first Holden Cup final.