Jake Friend of the Roosters during the round 2 NRL match between the Sydney Roosters and the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles at Leichhardt Oval, Saturday, March 21, 2020. (AAP Image/Darren Pateman)
Jake Friend of the Roosters during the round 2 NRL match between the Sydney Roosters and the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles at Leichhardt Oval, Saturday, March 21, 2020. (AAP Image/Darren Pateman)

Off-contract players in dark amid NRL salary cap scramble

ARLC chairman Peter V'landys admits finalising a salary cap figure for next season and beyond is still months away, forcing up to 180 off-contract NRL players to wait or insert clauses in contracts to secure their futures.

Those affected include stars like Reed Mahoney, Nick Cotric, Jake Friend, Kieran Foran, Alex Johnston, Cameron Smith, Benji Marshall and Jesse Bromwich.

V'landys had stated that the cap should remain at $9.9 million for next season despite fears that big-money salaries could be slashed in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

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The league boss said he is hopeful the cap won't change, but he couldn't rule out a reduction.

"Objective is to keep it (the cap) as close as possible to the same," V'landys said.

Asked if the cap from 2021 onwards will be finalised in a matter of weeks, he replied: "Longer."

V'landys and his team at the NRL are working with the clubs and the Players' Association to secure a new salary cap figure.

The Players' Association wants clarity around the final two years of the agreed CBA model, and what it will look like.

Rugby league has received a significant financial boost from its new broadcast deal with Channel 9 (until 2022) and Foxtel (until 2027), but that cash injection alone hasn't allowed officials to fast track an announcement on the salary cap.

The Eels are confident of signing Reed Mahoney to a long-term deal.
The Eels are confident of signing Reed Mahoney to a long-term deal.

This uncertainty is making it difficult for clubs to negotiate with off-contract players because they don't know what the cap figure is.

As it stands, clubs are waiting to re-sign players, or they are inserting contract clauses on new deals to cover for any reduction in the cap.

These clauses have been approved by the NRL and the Players' Association.

A perfect example is Penrith winger Brian To'o, who this week signed a three-year extension to keep him at the club until the end of the 2023 season.

To finalise the deal, To'o had clauses inserted into his contract in case the salary cap changes.

Other players who recently secured contract extensions or new contracts, including Tyson Frizell from St George Illawarra to Newcastle, also have clauses inserted.

Tyson Frizell has had special clauses inserted into his new deal with the Knights.
Tyson Frizell has had special clauses inserted into his new deal with the Knights.

Clubs privately fear that the salary cap could drop, but they are hopeful that the $9.9 million figure will remain the same.

Competition leaders Parramatta have 12 players off-contract this season, including hooker Mahoney.

The Queensland-born No.9 is in talks with the Eels to extend.

Mahoney's management have put forward a proposed two-year contract and are awaiting a response from Parramatta.

Clubs like Parramatta are happy to play the waiting game on contracts until they have a clearer understanding of the cap figure.

The Eels want Mahoney long-term and view him as a future leader, so they are confident that a deal will be done.



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