St George Illawarra veteran James Graham has backed every NRL player to take a pay cut, with the coronavirus crisis set to place the league's finances under severe strain.
Hours before NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said there would be the ''potential'' for players to take pay cuts, Graham – one of the game's most outspoken players – predicted there would be no resistance from those who put on the show behind closed doors from this weekend.
James Graham says players will be open to pay cuts if it means keeping the NRL competition going.
"We might not have a choice. What do you do, get paid all your money and the game goes bust? I can't imagine any player having that sort of attitude.
"In times of crisis and difficult times, you only have to look back as far as the bushfires when the communities came together and helped each other out, and we're all in it together. If that was the case [here], you have to take pay cuts. What do you do, say no?"
Graham was unsure of the best way to decide what amount to trim from each player's salary, but maintained it was unfair to make it a percentage of their income given some earned in excess of $1 million a year and others were on the $75,000 minimum wage.
"The people who make the calls, it's crunch time for them, and that's why they get paid a lot of money to administer the game,'' Graham said. "Nothing has been discussed as of yet, but if we get there, I can't speak for everyone, but I'd guess the players will look to look after each other rather. We'd want to look after each other.''
RLPA general manager Clint Newton said that under the current collective bargaining agreement, the players were committed to returning to the table with the NRL for ''good-faith discussions' if there was a significant reduction in revenue caused by an event like the coronavirus crisis.
"And there are other areas within the players' share of revenue we'd look to explore before we looked at players taking actual pay cuts,'' Newton said.
"There are player benefits such as the retirement fund and injury hardship fund. We met with the NRL again on Monday to commence discussions regarding potential scenarios.''
Whatever money the players potentially gave up would be considered over the remaining two years of the current CBA, said Newton.
Graham's Dragons' teammate Trent Merrin was happy to forego money but echoed Cameron Smith's call for the competition to halt for the sake of players safety.
"What’s more important, we take a pay cut or we get the virus and something happens,'' Merrin asked. "Your health has got to be worth more than money at the end of the day.''
Roosters playmaker Luke Keary was resigned to taking a wage cut. "[Salary cuts] are probably, definitely a possibility. There are a lot of people's jobs on the line, and it's not just in rugby league either, it's in other sports and industries. But what do you do?''
Greenberg confirmed that players could be left out of pocket, he later explained the option was there for the CBA to be re-negotiated during catastrophic times.
"It may be that in any industry where your revenues don't exceed your costs you have to have another look at how those costs are fixed,'' said Greenberg, when asked about cuts.
"But let me be really clear, nobody is saying at the moment players are taking paycuts. What we're saying is in the funding agreements with every constituent in the game, when the revenue drops, there's an ability for us to re-negotiate some of those deals.''
Meanwhile, another Dragon, Issac Luke, said he felt for his former New Zealand Warriors friends who have been forced to remain in Australia after the country's 14-day lockdown in response to coronavirus.
While most of the Warriors chose to stay, Luke said if he was still at the club he would have likely returned home to be with his wife and four young children.
"Family is most important. I know this is our job, but I probably would have ended up going home to my family,'' Luke said.
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