:	Rugby League, NRL Round 16 Brisbane Broncos v Newcastle Knights at Suncorp Stadium, Friday June 26 2015. Digital Image by Colin Whelan © nrlphotos.com

Newton Backs Boycott Claims

Threats to boycott the 2015 Dally M awards made by a number of stars including Johnathan Thurston and James Maloney have been supported from the Rugby League Players Association General President, Clint Newton.

Newton backed claims made by the superstar pair, who are leading the protests over player welfare disputes, and insists the threats are genuine.

“It’s very real. We’re acting on behalf of the players, so if that’s what they want to do, we fully support them,” said Newton.

With the league recently putting pen to paper on a lucrative television-rights deal, Newton and the RLPA believe the players, “the game’s greatest asset”, are owed a greater share of this money.

The NRL recently secured a $925-million deal with Channel 9 to air four games per round starting in 2018, and are in negotiations regarding remaining matches. Whatever the outcome, it is set to be significantly higher than the current $1.2 billion deal for all eight games.

Contributions to the players’ retirement funds, education and welfare costs, as well as the abolishment of five-day turnarounds are some of the RLPA’s demands, and if not met, the boycott of league’s night of nights looms as a real possibility.

“Obviously we certainly don’t want to get caught up in all that sort of talk because of the fact that this is more about player welfare and player wellbeing,” said Newton, who was playing for the Newcastle Knights in 2003 when the Dally M awards were cancelled due to a similar player boycott.

“We just want this resolved as early as possible and hopefully the NRL come to the party. I’ve got every bit of confidence in the fact that they’ll make some decisions for what’s best for the games greatest asset - which is the players.”

While Thurston expressed his opinions on Triple M last Thursday, other players such as Maloney have taken to social media to have their say on the issue.

Maloney re-tweeted five articles on the matter since last Wednesday, as well as a tweet from Newton that reads: “The RLPA is determined to continue defending our players’ rights & protecting player welfare. Proud of our players!”

Others players who have re-tweeted articles on the player welfare issue and possible boycott include Lloyd Perrett, Ryan Morgan, Joseph Paulo, David Gower, Corey Norman, Luke Kelly, Tim Mannah, Matt Mcilwrick, Suaia Matagi, Ryan Hoffman, Nate Myles, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Wade Graham, Dene Halatau, Jeremy Smith, Matt Moylan, Tom Symonds, James Segeyaro and Jamie Soward.