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NRLW players set to get 'significant' pay increase in 2022: Abdo

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo has responded to recent criticism around the NRLW's postponement by indicating leading female players may earn a significant pay increase for a busier schedule in 2022.

The NRL confirmed last week this year's elite women's competition would be pushed back to early next year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in NSW.

The rescheduling sets up a bumper women's schedule in 2022 which will include two NRLW premierships, a State of Origin fixture, the World Cup and state competitions.

Several players and coaches have voiced their concerns around the workload for next year's projected 11-month schedule given they're still only considered part-time athletes.

A leading NRLW player, who begins pre-season training in January and plays through to the World Cup in November, could play close to 30 games in the year.

Abdo said players stood to earn more than they have ever before throughout the 2022 season.

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"It's a lot of football, so we need to manage the workload and balance accordingly," Abdo told Channel Nine on Sunday.

"We're working with the RLPA, the players, clubs and stakeholders on how that gets managed.

"What's exciting is how the players can then get remunerated. I think you're going to see a significant set change in what that remuneration looks like.

"We had started the remuneration process ahead of this season. We hadn't officially started the pre-season because we couldn't get those exemptions to train or play safely.

"We're in constant communication with players around what those revised arrangements will be.

"Some players [stand to earn] significantly more in what we've ever been able to pay them previously because of this.

"We need to balance this all up and that's what we're working on as we speak."

Abdo said he understood any backlash since the competition's postponement but dismissed claims players weren't kept up to date throughout the process.

He indicated players and club officials were notified a week before the official announcement was made with relocation a major reason why the competition couldn't go ahead.

"I'm comfortable to set the record straight," he said.

"We've been working on this behind the scenes for a number of months now and have been in regular communication with the players via the RLPA, the player advisory group and players themselves.

"We had a zoom call and invited the 124 NRLW players and had 120 on the call. That was a week to 10 days before the announcement.

"We communicated very clearly what we had been doing, what are options were and where we were going with this competition.

"I completely understand the frustration of not being able to play right now but what we have to be aware of is out of a group of 140 players, and the officials, it just wasn't possible that everyone could commit to relocating."

Some players [stand to earn] significantly more in what we've ever been able to pay them previously.

Andrew Abdo

Abdo said the league knew "exactly who could and couldn't relocate and we had frank conversations with the wider playing group".

"You've got to take into account everyone's circumstances. If you're only going to play with 70-80 percent of players you're still missing two teams.

"We want the competition to have integrity and need to be conscious of everyone's circumstances. 2022 offers us a really watershed moment for our female game. for everyone, from players, officials to fans.

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"We're turning our attention now to have we make that as big and successful as possible."

Abdo said along with working through next year's schedule, a priority was to ensure international players from New Zealand and Papua New Guinea were able to get home this year.

Seven players currently based in Newcastle - Ngatokotoru Arakua, Annetta Nu'uausala, Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly, Charlotte Scanlan, Katelyn Vaha'akolo, Maitua Feterika, and KatWira-Kohu – are waiting to return to New Zealand.

Titans recruit Karli Hansen is also waiting for details to return to New Zealand while Elsie Albert would like to go back to PNG.

A host of other interstate Knights recruits have flown back to Queensland and are currently undergoing a 14-day quarantine before release.  

"We have been working with all the players who have chosen to relocate for the season," Abdo said.

"We are supporting them best we can both financially and making sure they get home."