Christian Welch believes there's a chance the playing group will skip the opening round of the 2023 NRL season as the delayed CBA negotiations climb closer to boiling point.
Several NRL clubs, including Newcastle, Brisbane, Cronulla and St George Illawarra, have already canceled all media events and obligations, threatening further boycotts if this issue isn't resolved before Round 1.
The CBA was originally due to completed in November, a year after negotiations began, however, nothing eventuated through that time period, ramping up frustrations from the playing group.
The ball sits firmly in the court of Andrew Abdo and Peter V'landys, as players begin to take matters into their own hands.
“Everything's on the table,” Welch told the NCA NewsWire.
“Since last November – not the one just gone, I'm talking 2021 – that's when we started to get the ball rolling, and that's why it's so frustrating. The NRL just hasn't been interested in engaging with one of their main stakeholders to work out a CBA.
“We've been trying to do the right thing by not kicking up a stink, and the biggest thing for the players is that we don't want to take away from the fans because they're the ones who support clubs and buy season memberships and jerseys.
“Many times throughout the year out of our frustrations with the NRL, we wanted to take some action. You look at State of Origin, you look at the finals series and the World Cup – no player action was taken because we didn't want to hurt the fans.
“It's really frustrating when we're acting in good faith but it's all falling on deaf ears. That's why all things are on the table.
“We're still training and playing, but you would have seen that we've pulled back on NRL media commitments, and there's a whole variety of action that we could take. Hopefully, it doesn't get to that, but it's been so frustrating.”
Welch also called out Abdo and V'landys after the announcement of an increased salary cap, the figure rising to $12.5 million per team, simply as a tactic to please those above them.
“I know why they're doing it,” said Welch.
“You look at V'Landys and Abdo and they're trying to keep the people who can throw them out of a job happy.
“Our claims are completely reasonable, and the biggest sticking points are non-financial. This big hold-up isn't because of the salary cap being far off, it's a number of things the NRL isn't even willing to talk to us about.
“I don't know what they've been doing throughout the year.
“We'd go into negotiations and Andrew Abdo wasn't present. I like to think that this would be a pretty high priority for the NRL to work with the players on.
“They bring an external consultant like Hugh Marks along, and if we're talking about cutting back costs, I'd like to know how much they pay him. I thought he was really reasonable, but he didn't have any power in those discussions to make calls, so it just dragged on and didn't go anywhere.
“Let's get back to the table, get a CBA done that benefits both parties and then we can grow our great game across Australia.”
While only a minority of clubs are involved thus far, the number seems to be rising as more and more continue to cancel media commitments.