The game’s best players are facing significant pay cuts from State of Origin, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.
The NRL and Rugby League Players Association are attempting to work out a reshaped Collective Bargaining Agreement, but sources have said it’s almost certain the lucrative $30,000-a-game payments will be cut.
Players have been able to rake in up to $90,000 for representing their state, on top of the salary they command from their respective clubs.
But while a final figure of match payments is yet to be decided, players are reportedly resigned to the fact they will also have to bear the financial pain if they are chosen for the series.
According to an Australian Financial Review report last year, the Origin series now generates $100 million per year.
With smaller or possibly no crowds allowed to attend, the revenue of the series is seriously diminished.
Asked whether he would speak his players about the pay cuts, NSW coach Brad Fittler said: “I don’t think I’d even want to ask them, there’s so much on the line and it’s been such a tough year.
“Of course they’d all play for free, but it’s in an environment where they shouldn’t play for free. They don’t deserve to play for free, but a lot of it comes back to crowds.
“Our players understand the bigger picture. People are hurting and I’ve got no doubt our leadership group, whoever is asked, will be fair.”
Queensland Rugby League chairman Bruce Hatcher said people would be “living in a fool’s paradise” to think players won’t also have to bear financial pain.
“I would be very surprised if the remuneration offered is going to be the same because I just don’t think the money is there and is far too much uncertainty whether the game will be played before a full house or restricted,” he said.
“You’d have to be realistic to think there will be negotiated reductions.”
Both Fittler and Queensland coach Kevin Walters are planning for how to keep players match fit once the regular season ends, with those who don’t make the finals faced with over a month’s break before the Origin opener.