RLPA concerned over Tonga Test pay cut
Australian and Tongan Test stars will take home the same size pay packet in order to get October's landmark fixture across the line, though the RLPA will push for greater player input on international scheduling to ensure such a sacrifice is not needed in future.
The Kangaroos have agreed in principle to the significant pay cut in which they will sacrifice the lion's share of their standard $20,000 match payments for Tests.
The Mate Ma'a will likely receive the same payment - expected to be less than $5000 per player - when the two nations meet for the first time at international level.
An announcement on the much-anticipated clash is expected next week, with intervention from NRL CEO Todd Greenberg and even a request from the office of the King of Tonga helping to have the October 20 Test go ahead.
RLPA boss Ian Prendergast confirmed the significant sacrifice by Australia's playing squad, made in the hope of building the international game and not letting Tonga's stunning World Cup run go to waste.
"The players have agreed in principle to this match and they understand the interest in it," Prendergast told NRL.com.
"They're supportive of the international game and waiving they're rights to the match payment that they'd otherwise receive for a Test match of this nature - they need to be commended for that.
"We're still working through those details but it may be that the Australians receive a very small match payment, the same as the Tongan boys and that's something that they're willing to accept on a one-off basis to get this game across the line."
Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium is expected to host the clash, with a trans-Tasman showdown between New Zealand and Australia to be held a week earlier at the same venue.
It is understood players expressed concern about the late notice provided for the two as yet unconfirmed fixtures, which will come at the end of the NRL season and 10 months on from the World Cup that did not finish until last December.
A repeat of this year's historic Denver Test has also been clouded by NRL and club opposition to the fixture and delays in player payments from promoter Moore Sports, with the NZRL stumping up $100,000 so players weren't left out of pocket when the July 31 deadline passed.
The NRL's general manager of elite competitions, Jason King, said many factors were considered in trying to get the Kangaroos versus Tonga Test off the ground, including player workload and commercial considerations such as the requirements of governments, sponsors and broadcasters.
"Players from both nations have also been vocal in their support for this match," he said.
"The NRL has worked tirelessly to ensure this Test match goes ahead and we are certainly hopeful that it will.
"There are many factors to be considered prior to scheduling this Test match.
"One challenge is player workload. Following a World Cup in 2017 the Kangaroos were scheduled for a light international schedule this year, with their only planned Test being against New Zealand on October 13.
"Clearly it is difficult to place any proposal before the playing group while the details of the proposed fixture are not known.
"In this case, once we had a solid commercial model we very quickly engaged the playing group through the RLPA. Ultimately our aim has always been to see this match go ahead while also ensuring that it is commercially viable.
"As far as the broader international calendar is concerned, we are diligently working through several issues with the RLIF and other nations, and welcome any constructive input from the RLPA."
The players' association wants a greater voice in the scheduling of international games, particularly more chances for Pacific nations to gain more exposure and regular top-level clashes.
"The interest in the international game has been driven by the players - their performances on the field and decisions to play for their countries of heritage - their voice needs to be respected," Prendergast said.
"Everyone needs to agree on what the international calendar looks like and that the players are given the opportunity to work with the NRL and international federation on a criteria to apply to a match.
"That would include a timeline, the process you work through to ensure international footy gets the platform it deserves. We're six weeks out from this fixture and we still haven't finalised all the details. That makes it difficult to get behind but the players want to support international footy."
The RLIF met last month in Singapore to nut out a long-term international schedule, with the Kangaroos (2020) and Kiwis (2018 and 2022) set to tour the UK, and England to come Down Under in 2019 and 2024 either side of World Cups in 2021 and 2025.