Players would back a new players union, says Leeds’ Stevie Ward

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A PLAYERS UNION for all Rugby League players in this country is “overdue” – that’s the opinion of Leeds and England forward Stevie Ward, who believes a recently retired player would be best placed to help set up a new body for the sport’s players.

With two double-header weekends in the fixture calendar this season, the lack of player representation from when making such decisions has been prominent in the news once again, with several leading players taking to social media to vent their frustration.

A group of players came together to form League13 for Super League players in January 2012, but the new body was unfunded and eventually closed in October 2015.

But now, Ward has told League Express that there is a new mood among the players – and it would just take a player recently retired from the sport with the time to be able to get it off the ground to start a union. Ward is confident that such a move would receive overwhelming support from professional players.

“There is now an appetite for it, I really feel that,” he said. “I feel that an ex-player would be suited to taking up the role of running this. I know with my stuff outside of rugby it can be time-consuming trying to juggle it with playing rugby.

“It needs someone to take on the brunt of it and players will add in and help out: believe me, they will. They know this has gone on for long enough now – it just needs someone who’s not playing any more to be the driving force behind it and get it set up. The players will follow with their voice.”

Ward also said he feels it is only right that, given the exertions the players put themselves through, a union that affords them fair consultation on a number of issues should be allowed to have its say.

He said: “I think we’re definitely overdue a voice and some sort of opinion to be presented from players’ perspectives.

“It’s only right to have all parties involved in discussions about taking the game forward. Whether that’s player welfare, whether it’s taking the game forward on the field or even marketing and commercial stuff, the RFL should involve everyone.

“It’s a tough game and it’s a long old year. Mentally it’s very draining for the players. I’m in a good spot with us being high in the league and I’m playing every week, but you’ve got to consider players from all clubs.

“Clubs who could be struggling, players who could be finding the backlog of games tough to deal with, and they have to be consulted now.”

He continued: “We’re a tough breed, and we need the opinion of the players and the perspective of what’s going on to take the game forward now. There are games where the levels aren’t as high because of fixture congestion and players being injured and I feel like we have to start to take a pretty significant step forward soon.”