Concerns about player safety are going to the next level.
There are quiet moves to limit the amount of contact work NRL players can do at training – something coaches will be very angry about if it’s approved.
That information was uncovered after this column started investigating talk of growing disquiet in the Tigers ranks, where some players are unhappy with the hard-nosed ways of coach Michael Maguire.
The club is ready to deal with any issues within the playing group. To their credit, the Tigers have been proactive in setting up a hotline for players or staff to raise concerns about the way the club is run. They are the first NRL club to do so. I have been told there have been a raft of complaints about the club. The Tigers say just one message has been received on the hotline since its inception 12 months ago and that was investigated.
The club is also searching for someone to take up the role of head of people and culture. Surely, that’s the job of the coach?
The Rugby League Players Association has confirmed that senior Tigers players have had lengthy talks with the union about Maguire’s decision to train them through to the grand final. The players agreed to do so, knowing it meant they would have a shorter lead-up to the start of the season and less of the brutal contact work Maguire loves.
The very public dispute with Ryan Matterson is the latest issue at the club. There have been problems and disagreements with Josh Reynolds, Russell Packer and Ben Matulino, among others.
It has led to a stream of information about the inner workings of the club coming the way of this column.
I asked if I could meet Tigers chief executive Justin Pascoe and Maguire to discuss these issues and get a response. After initially agreeing to meet, Pascoe decided he did not want to comment on the record.
The Matterson issue is not all about money. We’ve been told it relates to player welfare at the Tigers and how he feels he is treated compared to the Roosters. He has not asked for more money.
The welfare concerns are real. We have been told a story about a young player being knocked out at training and questions about the care he received, and another player being badly injured during a wrestling training session.
The club refused to confirm or deny the stories.
The Tigers say they have rigorous protocols in place to ensure the wellbeing of players. Those protocols have been successful in detecting injuries during the year and players have subsequently received top care. However, the club has moved on assistant coach Craig Sandercock, and long-time physio Peter Moussa has left. Both these departures have not pleased the players.
On top of all that, Tigers stalwart Chris Lawrence is still waiting for a new deal. The Tigers say he will get one.