Clubs demand transfer system finalised before CBA signed off

NRL clubs have argued a change to the controversial transfer system must be decided before head office and the players’ union can sign off on a new pay deal.

In a hint the collective bargaining talks could drag on for weeks, one of the game’s most vexing issues is proving to be almost the last stumbling block in the sensitive negotiations which have already lasted more than a year.

While there were suggestions the NRL and Rugby League Players’ Association could announce an in principle agreement and tackle the trading system later this year, clubs have pushed back and want a formal agreement before any announcement.

According to sources speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the confidential nature of the talks, several club bosses have asked for clarity about how and when players can move clubs before a deal is finally signed off.

The NRL is arguing for the November 1 free agency window to be pushed back eight months to June 30, stopping the likes of Stephen Crichton, Spencer Leniu, Herbie Farnworth, Tom Flegler and Dom Young agreeing to join other clubs in 2024 before playing a full season with their current one.

But the players’ union has argued it will create a number of other unintended problems and wants further debate on the best system for the game.

Penrith Panthers centre Stephen Crichton, Newcastle Knights winger Dominic Young and Brisbane Broncos centre Herbie Farnworth.

The NRL and RLPA have made concessions to agree on most of the collective bargaining agreement conditions, despite not being able to announce a new deal before the Eels and Storm season opener last week.

NRLW clubs – including the four expansion sides, the Sharks, Tigers, Raiders and Cowboys – are still waiting to formally be allowed to sign players for the upcoming season.

But one of the game’s longest standing issues will need to be analysed before the collective bargaining agreement can be decided, with 12 per cent of club chairs and chief executives saying the transfer system was the biggest issue in the game in a Herald poll last month.

Fans have long vented their fury with the system which allows players to sign for a rival club 12 months out from the end of their current contract.

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