Some of the NRL?s leading players have thrown their support behind the current June 30 anti-tampering deadline ? setting up a battle with club and league officials looking to change the system.
Coaches and chief executives from across the league have continued to deride the present format, which sees players announcing a club change for the following season with half the season still to play.
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett has described the mid-season trade period as ?the most ridiculous and destructive thing in our game?.
For several seasons, club bosses have called on the NRL to move the deadline to after the grand final and league supremo David Gallop this week announced an end-of-season trade period would likely be trialled at the end of 2005.
However, leading players Brad Fittler and Craig Gower say such a move will be detrimental to players ? who they claim will be inconvenienced with such a short period to decide their future before the new season begins.
"I think [the deadline] should stay," Fittler said.
"It can be frustrating for the clubs and the supporters, but if transfers are left to the end of the year a lot of players may be left stranded. It just makes it too difficult.
"If you move the deadline to the end of the season, you?ll find that three weeks before the grand final most clubs will be doing their best to get around anti-tampering.?
Fittler and Gower both dismissed the point that every other footballing competition uses the end of the season as a trading period, claiming the length of the NRL season made such a process untenable.
"If they try to swindle the players with the end-of-the-year date then I think it's the wrong thing to do," he said.
"If they put it back to the end of the season the NRL would only be worrying about the clubs and not about the players."
Meanwhile, the NRL and Rugby League Players Association have signed a formal heads of agreement covering all Collective Bargaining Agreement issues.
The agreement is the most significant step towards a CBA being formally applied to NRL players ? with the players ratification all that remains before the document is finalised.
?The document is in effect a full CBA that must now be ratified by the players and the clubs,? Gallop said.
?There?s certainly been some difficult moments along the way but we have always believed in the players? right to have input into the game?s decision making.
?It represents a lengthy negotiation process in which, through Tony Butterfield, the players have been able to gain formal recognition as a group and a clear voice in terms of conditions.
?I congratulate Tony and the players and think this is a deal that contains significant benefits for the players and the game.?
Butterfield, the head of the RLPA, said the development was a landmark step for NRL players.
?While there is still some work ahead to ratify the document it does represent real benefits for the players and a recognition of their role in the game,? he said.
?It is significant that player delegates from all clubs were at today?s meeting and authorised that we sign the heads of agreement document.?Like