Demands are big but so are rewards for players

HANDS up anyone interested in securing a new job with the potential to earn more than $1 million a year, eight weeks annual leave and no weekend work during summer.

Other benefits include all-expenses paid travel every second weekend in winter, staying in four-star hotels with all meals provided.

Uniforms, formal and casual clothing is also provided.

And for those who excel, the opportunity exists to earn an additional salary in excess of $100,000 a year. A fully-maintained vehicle and other commercial fringe benefits may also be negotiated.

Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it?

Yet these are the benefits NRL players will receive if the latest log of claims from the Rugby League Players' Association is met by the governing body.

For a number of seasons the elite players in the game have grumbled about the demands being placed on them.

Test halfback Cooper Cronk is the latest, claiming just last week that if player burnout is allowed to continue, 10-year careers at the top will become past tense.

And Cronk is not a lone wolf.

He is echoing the sentiments of many players - mostly those on the huge bucks - including Cameron Smith, Greg Inglis, Johnathan Thurston and Justin Hodges.

No one questions that NRL players are employed to play a tough sport. Rugby league is physically and mentally demanding and while the recompense and rewards at the top are exceptional, the risk of injury, and fatigue, is high.

And by adding in the Auckland Nines, the All Stars and this season an extended World Club Challenge format, the NRL has given the players genuine reasons to gripe. But surely, in this recent list of demands, the RLPA is pulling our leg?

As well as the claims listed above, the RLPA seeks 14 consecutive days leave over the Christmas-New Year period; two breaks of four consecutive days during the bye weekends; and for players who have previously had three full pre-seasons during their careers, off-season training should start no more than six weeks before Christmas.

Players - and their coaches - have already started a silent but very visible protest. A horde of them, including Slater, Hodges and Thurston, were unavailable for the Four Nations tournament at the end of last season while more than 100 top liners did not play in this weekend's Nines.

But to my knowledge no one has pulled out of the high-profile All Stars game and I'd be surprised if any of the elite brigade at the Dragons, Rabbitohs or Broncos refuse the business-class travel to England for the World Club Challenge in a couple of weeks.

For mine, yes the demand on NRL players is much, much more than it once was.

But so are the rewards.

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