Thurston warns players won't back down

In the countdown to Friday's showdown between the players and Grant, North Queensland Cowboys superstar Johnathan Thurston told The Daily Telegraph the demand for a salary cap increase to $6.5 million was not just about lining the pockets of the game's superstars but looking after the NRL battlers and injured players.

"What we are asking for is not over the top," Thurston said. "What we are asking for, we believe, is just a fair slice of the pie."

In a wide-ranging interview, the off-contract Cowboys star also spoke about his "secret" meeting with Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs coach Des Hasler recently and said a move to Sydney was a very real possibility.

"I am 30 next year so no doubt this will be my last contract and I think I deserve the right to explore all my options and that is what I am doing," he said.

"This is about what is best for me and my fiancee (Samantha Lynch) and us moving forward.

"So if the best deal was to move to Sydney, then certainly we will consider it very much and that is what I am doing."

But before he can move forward on his own future, Thurston said every player needs to know what the salary cap will be. 

WON'T BACK DOWN

Thurston travelled from Townsville to attend the meeting last Friday with ARLC interim boss Shane Mattiske and he said that talk they are being greedy ignored the real issue.

"It is not just the players at the top asking for the pay rise,' Thurston said.

"We also want the minimum wage increased (from $55,000 to $80,000) and we want to get a better deal for injured players (who can have their contracts terminated under the current laws).

"What we are asking for, we believe, is just a fair slice of the pie.

"There has been a big influx of money and as for the Players Association, we are very united on where we stand and what we are asking for."

He said the fact the ARLC negotiated a $1.025 billion TV deal was proof the players are doing a good job.

"Well, you would think so," he said.

"Obviously the pie has more than doubled from the last negotiations and common sense would say that rugby league is the most popular it has ever been and the standard is extremely high.

"If you have a look at the Foxtel ratings, seven of the top shows are rugby league. State of Origin is the biggest it has ever been ... so the players are doing their bit on the field and off the field and we want to make sure we are getting a fair slice of the pie. That's all."

WILL THEY STRIKE?

There has been speculation that if the players' demands aren't met they could boycott next year's All Stars fixture.

As the Indigenous captain, Thurston said that would be the last resort - but he didn't rule it out completely.

"We certainly don't want it to get to that," he said. "We are hoping it doesn't get to that but certainly the players need to make a stand and be heard.

"Certainly it wouldn't be great for the fans but there are a lot of possibilities that could happen.

"Look, it is just making sure the players are all united and whatever we decide to do, it doesn't matter if you are the top player at your club or number 25 or number 30 we need to make that stand.

"As an association we are all united and we will do what is best for every player in the game."

SHOW ME THE MONEY

Thurston was recently photographed at a late-night meeting with Bulldogs coach Des Hasler at Belmore.

Asked if he was happy to be caught in Sydney talking to a rival club's coach, Thurston laughed: "Yeah, stoked."

But the player was adamant that he had done nothing wrong.

"Look, I am 30 next year so there aren't too many 34 or 35-year-olds running around.

"No doubt this will be my last contract.

"I'm recently engaged and I have to do the best by me and my fiancee.

"I think I deserve the right to explore all my options and that is what I am doing."

FIX THE REFS

Given the way the Cowboys bowed out of this year's finals series, Thurston has every right to be still stewing over the loss to Manly Sea Eagles.

But since that game Daniel Anderson has taken over as referees boss and Thurston hopes change brings consistency and accountability.

"No doubt I still believe we were robbed but you can't change it now," he said.

"Definitely we want consistency and also to know what the roles of the touch judges are.

"Are they just like spectators or are they watching for infringements and offside?

"And the person in the box (who missed the Kieran Foran knock on against Manly). We need consistency."







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