After the RL players union, 1eagu3, folded three years after being formed in 2012, players were left without a voice in the vast majority of decisions to do with their sport. For example, the number of games they play, rule changes, the structure of the season and even the match ball is decided for the players.
However, that is about to change and the man relaunching the Rugby League Players’ Association, former Leeds, Warrington and Hull prop Gareth Carvell, said that “players are currently not consulted so they have absolutely no input but a lot of players have good ideas and no longer want to be overlooked by people who make the rules but who probably haven’t played the game” – and the RFL are backing both him and the reformed union to Carvell’s delight.
After over 300 appearances as a professional player for both Super League clubs and his country, he has a wealth of experience and highlighted that the reformation isn’t to cause issues. Instead, he outlined that “this is about improving conditions for the players and improving the game. This is about having a collective voice. It’s about negotiating and putting forward the players’ views.” NRL’s players already have a say in their playing conditions Down Under and the RLPA will be hoping to have the same level of influence and involvement in decision making in the northern hemisphere. Indeed, things last year got so ‘bad’ in the NRL that players threatened strike action over pay – something Carvell is hoping to, unsurprisingly, avoid. He intends for the union to be “about negotiation and my job is to make sure that the players are looked after. There are issues and we want to make things better.”
Clearly, the players are behind the initiative with the former Great Britain forward saying that “we’re now getting almost 100 per cent buy-in from the players. They want to have a voice” so it may well be over the coming year or two that, alongside RFL reforms, we see rugby league progress as a sport in ways it hasn’t for years.