RLPA statement - Ian Prendergast

Rugby League Players' Association (RLPA) Chief Executive Officer Ian Prendergast has released the following statement:

"The RLPA is disappointed in the decision made by the Australian Rugby League Commission today to alter a policy that will directly impact on the employment rights of its members," Mr. Prendergast said.

"The ramifications for players will be substantial – both those who are currently defending charges and those who may be subject to the same situation in the future.

"Whilst we respect the Commission’s view that this is a ‘no fault’ policy, the reality is that standing down a player indefinitely can impact on the fundamental principle of the presumption of innocence and may prejudice the legal process.

"As we have consistently stated, this change will do irreparable damage to the player and his employment.

"Professional athletes already have short careers and waiting for the conclusion of a court case would significantly impact, and in some cases, end their time in the game.

"We respect that the Commission have a difficult task handling what is a complex issue and are doing what they believe is in the best interests of the game.

"There is no option that sits comfortably with everyone, and we recognise the risks to the game.

However, we maintain that the current policy is the fairest and most sensible approach.

"It remains our view that any policy change must be agreed with the RLPA. 

"Whilst we have been consulted, it is obvious that we do not agree to the proposed changes. 

"That is a matter we will engage the Commission and NRL on in the coming days and weeks, as well as considering our options legally and through the CBA dispute process.

"As always, we will support our members to explore any legal options they may have available to them.

"We are not ignorant to the hurt that these matters cause the game and are committed to working with the NRL and Clubs to repair the damage that has been done.

However, we continue to query whether this change will genuinely have the desired impact of rebuilding public trust and confidence in the game.

"We also believe that there are a range of strategic initiatives that will have a far greater impact than this policy change on improving professional standards within the game and reducing integrity-related incidents..

"The RLPA reaffirms its stance that strong action needs to be taken against any player or official found guilty of violence against women – it has no place in our game or society. 

"However, until such time as there is objective proof of such conduct, we do not believe the game can or should act. 

"To clarify what options may be pursued by the RLPA and in response to various media reports – industrial action is not something that the Association has considered in relation to this issue."