$20m in 10 days: brutal cost for NRL’s off-contract stars
They are the 10 wretched days which are expected to cost off-contract NRL players a colossal $20 million.
Hardest hit will be young superstar David Fifita, who is bracing for a $1.25 million pay cut from future earnings.
While South Sydney champion Latrell Mitchell could lose $200,000 a year from next season.
Around 180 NRL players coming off contract after this season could have their value reduced from a collective $80 million to $60 million - all this in just 10 days since the NRL was forced into shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
These are the stark numbers to accompany what is expected to be a 25 per cent reduction in the salary cap for next season. It means elite, $1 million-a-year players will now be playing for $750,000.
Fifita is weighing up five-year offers which were worth $1 million a season before coronavirus. His $5 million offer will now be worth $3.75 million under a revised salary cap.
Mitchell is being paid $800,000 a season at Souths and has an option his way for next year. That figure will now likely by cut to $600,000 annually.
BELOW: THE LIST OF OFF-CONTRACT NRL STARS
ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys is resisting a salary cap cut at present but clubs are pushing hard to reduce costs and contracts for a game left financially crippled. It could lead to friction between the clubs and RPLA.
One club CEO said: "There has been so much waste throughout the game because the (broadcast deal) pie kept getting bigger. That's not happening now.
"The salary cap will decrease by 20 to 25 per cent. Some are saying 40 per cent but that is ridiculous. How much the salary cap is reduced may depend on how much V'landys can trim at head office."
Players coming off contract after this season include Fifita, Mitchell, Jack Bird, David Fifita, Anthony Milford, Nick Cotric, Kieran Foran, Ryan James, Moses Suli, Jesse Bromwich, Cam Smith, Nathan Brown, Reed Mahoney, James Tamou, Alex Johnston, Jack de Belin, Jake Friend, Benji Marshall and Adam Blair.
Adding to the confusion is that the players may not play this season. It is NRL's winter closing down sale with players unable to put themselves in the shop front window. Off contract from November 1, players have had all negotiations suspended.
NRL stars are becoming increasingly concerned they may be prevented the opportunity now to show their current clubs - or rival suitors - they are worthy of a new deal.
At best, the players are looking at a significantly reduced premiership, possibly starting in August or September.
"It would be concerning for them (off-contract players). It's a double blow - off contract and at the same time having this amazing set of circumstances," said Raiders CEO Don Furner.
"It places them in a more precarious than all the rest of the players but good players like Nick (Cotric) will always be in demand."
One coach said: "There is plenty of talent available after this season but now isn't really the time to be negotiating a new deal."
Leading player agent Steve 'Chimes' Gillis was trying to stay calm through unsettling times for his clients and the game.
"It's extremely concerning for everyone," Gillis said. "We don't even know if we have a competition. No one can tell us when we're going to be back out there.
"It's frustrating and stressful for everyone but we can't answer questions about the unknown. It will unravel - everyone needs to be patient. We can worry until the cows come home but that isn't going to change anything.
"We have to keep thinking positive and waiting for the signal. Once the game resumes, it will flow. Once we know what is happening, we will be able to move.
"Everyone is in the same boat - whether you have or haven't got a contract so we shouldn't try to forecast or hypothetically think 'what are we going to do?' We can only play what is in front of us and we don't know what is in front of us.
"I am extremely optimistic about the game returning as strongly as ever. It will take time but I have always said rugby league is indestructible. It's certainly taken a hit but it will be back.
"We have been telling our players to stay strong and know that everyone is doing everything possible to assist but some things remain out of our immediate control."
OFF CONTRACT PLAYERS AFTER THIS SEASON
Jack de Belin
Originally published as $20m in 10 days: brutal cost for NRL's off-contract stars