NRL CEO Todd Greenberg has defended the game's position on current negotiations relating to the next collective bargaining agreement, insisting players will only be paid what the game can afford.
Greenberg was forced to discuss the nature of the NRL's negotiations with the 16 clubs and the Rugby League Players Association after Storm, Queensland and Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith expressed his disappointment in some of the communication by the NRL in his pre-Origin press conference and reaffirmed that the RLPA would not be backing down from negotiations.
Acknowledging that there is still some work to be done before the NRL and the RLPA reach common ground in relation to the talks that will define a CBA agreement to cover 2018-2022, Greenberg also reiterated the need to be conscious of what the game as a whole can afford.
"We've been in really good discussions with the players and their association for a number of months but as I said at the outset these are big negotiations for the players, I understand that and they've got their point of view to put across," said Greenberg.
"Equally, we have a point of view that says we have to ensure the game has affordability across all levels.
"The players will be paid very well in the next phase of our negotiations but it might take some time to get to that agreement.
"In the next round the players will be paid better than at any other time in the history of the game, as they should be. But what we have to do is manage that affordability across the game.
"No one would argue that we need to invest more in grassroots, no one would argue that we have a number of areas where the game needs to invest wisely; the players are at the very top of that list.
"Clearly we've got some work to do but I'm pretty confident we'll get it done."
Appointed the General President of the RLPA in March, Smith stopped short of indicating that the players would be prepared to take industrial action should their proposal of a shared revenue model not be agreed to and was adamant that what they have put forward is well within the realms of what the NRL can afford over the next five years.
"We're a patient group and we believe that we have put forward a balanced proposal to the NRL, which both parties can benefit from," Smith said.
"And that's not only the NRL and the clubs and fans and members. We want to grow the game and we believe our proposal can do that. We want to work in partnership with them, not against them.
"We don't think it's a cash grab for the players at all. The framework we've presented the NRL means that if the game grows, the players and clubs benefit from that. If it doesn't grow and it goes backwards, so does our share of the pie.
"At this stage there's been a forecast of between $400 million and $700 million dollars that the game's going to bring in every year for the next five. You give the clubs the 130 per cent funding which is $10 million salary cap plus $3 million extra funding to help out the clubs, the game's left with $192 million to run the game. Surely that's enough."
Smith's comments came on the back of statements made by Cooper Cronk, Tim Mannah, James Maloney and Adam Blair over the weekend in relation to the CBA negotiations but Greenberg is hopeful that further dialogue will occur out of the public eye.
"I made a commitment to the Players Association and to the senior players that we wouldn't play out our negotiations in public and I stand by that and I'll maintain that," said Greenberg.
"Clearly things in our industry seem to be in the media a lot and I understand that too. That's being pragmatic but we'll continue to have the dialogue behind closed doors as I think we should."