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NRL, players close in on pre-Xmas deal
By Steve Jancetic
17:29 AEST Wed Dec 12 2012

ARL Commission chairman John Grant is hopeful of signing off on a new collective bargaining agreement by Christmas, with the latest round of talks all but extinguishing the prospect of an All-Stars boycott.

As the NRL unveiled another financial windfall via a naming and digital rights deal with Telstra worth more than $100 million, players and the league moved closer to a resolution as to how much of the pie the game's stars will get.

While careful not to describe a deal as imminent, there was a sense of positivity from both sides on Wednesday, with all parties to return to Rugby League Central on Thursday to continue negotiations.

"I think we're really heading towards common ground," Grant told AAP.

"I'm optimistic. It would be lovely to say this would be done before Christmas, that's not a drop dead comment at all, but optimistically it would be great if we could."

That sentiment seemed a long way away from the tone earlier in the week, when players openly discussed the prospect of strike action and reports the ARLC would set the cap on its own if the players did not relent on their demands.

The players are seeking a salary cap of $6.5 million per club, up from the current $5 million, and a minimum wage of $80,000 - figures they claim are a fairer share of the game's financial position following the $1.025 billion broadcast deal negotiated earlier this year.

Grant said players were handed a revised offer on Wednesday.

"They'll now consider that ... we'll go away with a joint understanding of what we need to do next," Grant said.

"You really do sense a greater understanding on both sides of what needs to happen, our job now is to make it happen."

NSW and Cronulla captain Paul Gallen described Wednesday's talks as the most productive of the negotiating period.

"The NRL has come back with a really good offer today," Gallen said.

"They've moved a long way from where they first started.

"As players we're definitely getting to where we need to be. We're not there yet but it's not too far off."

As for the prospect of a pre-Christmas resolution, Gallen said: "We're not too concerned about the date when we get a final answer.

"We just want the right deal done ... hopefully before Christmas, you never know."

Grant said the new naming and digital rights deal - worth more than double the previous deal - had already been factored into CBA discussions with players.

The new five-year deal will continue Telstra's sponsorship of the NRL into a 17th year, a record for a sports naming rights sponsor in Australia.

A key plank of the new deal will see NRL matches broadcast live on mobile phones and tablets across all networks.