RLPA rules out NRL player strike action

The Rugby League Players' Association (RLPA) has ruled out strike action but will back any player who sues the NRL over it controversial changes to behavioural policy.

RLPA chief executive Ian Prendergast said he was disappointed but not surprised after the ARL commission on Thursday pushed through rules, allowing the game to stand down players accused of serious crimes.

The players' union was considering its next step on Thursday and foreshadowed taking up the fight to Rugby League Central on several fronts.

Prendergast said he would stand behind any player who exercised their legal rights.

He said any alterations needed to be agreed to by the union and said they would consider challenging it through the collective bargaining agreement dispute process.

However, he flatly ruled out strike action and players sitting out games.

"We're not considering industrial action in relation to this decision," Prendergast said.

"We'll weigh up our options under the collective bargaining agreement and the law and support the individual in terms of the legal rights which they may wish to pursue."

Prendergast went to great lengths to voice his opposition to violence against women, however he said standing a player down while they were before the courts undermined their legal right to a presumption of innocence.

"I understand the game is under huge pressure," Prendergast said.

"But I think we have to be conscious of the fundamental rights that everyone in our society expects.

"I'd also call out the comparisons that are being made with other professions - they are distinguishable and very different."

St George Illawarra lock Jack de Belin was the first player to be stood down as he faced a charge of aggravated sexual assault.

He has pleaded not guilty.

Players remain on full pay while they are sidelined, however it might cost a player such as De Belin, an incumbent NSW State of Origin forward, hundreds of thousands of dollars in missed representative match payments.

De Belin last year earned $90,000 for his three Origin appearances in the Blues' series win and, with the prospect of his case dragging on for 18 to 24 months, the RLPA is worried about its affect on his career and earning potential.

"Standing down a players for two years can have a significant impact on their livelihood. In some cases, it could completely wipe out their career," Prendergast said.