Andrew Bryan, NRL.com
Preston Campbell does not support the NRL players in any plans to boycott the Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars game.
Campbell, the mastermind behind the NRL All Stars concept, talked to NRL.com to clarify his position, with reports overnight indicating he understood the players talk of strike action.
“I was not condoning or supporting the boys boycotting the All Stars game,” Campbell told NRL.com.
“I was basically stating that I understand that they were trying to raise minimum wage and working towards a solution.
“Boycotting any game is not the right way to go about things. Whether it is All Stars or any game of football, boycotting is not ideal.
“I never said that I supported strike action, but I do understand the players’ position and them trying to get a compromise around the salary cap.”
Campbell is one of the most respected figures to have played the game, notching up 267 NRL games in a career spanning 14 years, winning a premiership with Penrith in 2003.
The former Dally M Player of the Year agreed that players deserve to be paid more, but was adamant that there was a right and wrong way to go about negotiations.
“Sometimes we need to realise why our game is so great and why we as footballers are so privileged to be able to get paid well,” he said.
“We get sponsored and training gear and given other freebies. We get given all this stuff because of the support we are given by the community, our fans and supporters.
“If they don’t support us, Rugby League isn’t the product it is today. Rugby League is a product people want to be involved in. The fans and the community hold the real power, without them, there is no game.
“Ultimately, strike action hurts our fans and I don’t think that the players should do that.”
The Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars concept has helped raise almost $5 million for NRL community programs in its first three years, with the ARLC hoping to increase the initiatives it supports next year.
Campbell has seen the effects in the community first-hand and is very humbled to have played a part in the life changing programs that have been created from his initial idea.
“The power of Rugby League should not be underestimated,” he said.
“People see players going into schools and in the community, and when they see that we are there not looking for talent, but looking to help encourage the kids especially in their later schooling years and the first few years out of school, they are really surprised.
“I’m very proud what the All Stars concept has done in the communities. It is an important game, but Rugby League is more than just a game, our players inspire people every week. But to have a game that is specifically for the betterment of other people, I think it is very important.
“There are probably a few players who don’t fully understand the concept and just play in it because it is an awesome game with the best players in the NRL, that is a benefit in itself that we can bring these people together, but the main theme of All Stars is giving back to the community.
“We have achieved so many great things already and I’m really looking forward to seeing what else is possible through Rugby League.”