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NRL stars need to take cap stand: Mason
By Steve Jancetic and Joe Barton
18:58 AEST Tue Dec 11 2012

Willie Mason is adamant NRL stars can't afford to back down in their fight for more money, despite admitting most players were not prepared for the consequences of a strike.

Players and the NRL will head back to the negotiating table on Wednesday as they seek to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement - with the game's stars seeking a greater slice of rugby league's new-found riches.

The players have threatened boycotting February's All-Stars game should their demand for more money - including a minimum wage of $80,000 compared to the current $55,000 - not be met.

ARL Commission chairman John Grant seemingly called their bluff after reportedly declaring the ARLC would set the salary cap on its own if the players along with the RLPA failed to compromise.

According to Mason, Grant's comments represented a line in the sand.

"The NRL has put it to the players what their thoughts are ... he's (Grant) really making a stand and I think the players really need to take their stance," Mason said.

"I'm glad he (Grant) said that because then it will make us really stick together and hopefully band closer and get it resolved.

"He's said his thoughts and now we can either back right down and say `okay you can do it your way' or really bond together and make a stand."

The most drastic action would be a no-show for the All-Star contest at Suncorp Stadium on February 9 - the now traditional season kick-off.

But Mason admits players would not be prepared for the financial hit an ongoing strike would have.

When NBA players in the US were involved in a lockout ahead of the 2011-12 season, they were given two years warning by their players association - and were told to put money aside in the event their incomes could be frozen.

NRL players have had no such briefing, leaving Mason to fear for the ramifications of a strike on players and the game.

"I don't think it's healthy for the game - it will make the game go backwards," Mason said.

"It's not like America where the NFL's a multi-billion dollar company ... we have a lockout system, the guys on $55,000, $80,000 - how are they going to survive?

"Strike action, lockout action, isn't going to work because the game isn't big enough to look after players.

"I think that's (striking) a big, drastic move, but we need to make a stand ... if we don't, we're just going to be set with the same salary cap, so no one wins, they (the NRL) win."

Added Johnathan Thurston, who has put new contract talks on hold amid the uncertainty of how much money will be available in the salary cap:

"The pie (has) more than doubled and the players have done their job on the field.

"Do you think if the players weren't doing their jobs on the field, that (the) pie would have more than doubled? I don't think so.

"We believe what we're asking for isn't over the top.

"Hopefully it doesn't come to that (strike)."

Melbourne-based sports lawyer Paul Horvath admitted that historically strike action in Australia had not necessarily achieved much.

"I suspect part of the reasoning is there's too much money to lose," Horvath told AAP.

"While games aren't being played no one is getting paid, the club's aren't getting any gate-share.

"I think that our sporting marketplace seems to recognise that there's too much to lose for all parties in a strike."


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