The NRL has increased its salary cap to $12.1m (£6.75m) ahead of the 2023 season.
The cap for the top 30 players will increase to a record high of $11.45m, which is a 22% increase from the previous limit.
The development list will increase from $240,000 to $650,000.
The minimum salary for all male players in a club’s top 30 NRL squad will grow to $120,000 (£67,000).
The NRL Women’s salary cap will also increase by 153% to $884,000.
An NRL statement said: “As a result of today’s announcement, players who have the standard form ratchet clause in their playing contract will receive an 18% increase to their playing fee, with the increase to be effective from 1 November, resulting in a well-timed year-end bonus.
“With the welcome addition of the Dolphins to the NRL Premiership and the NRLW Premiership expanding to a 10-team competition with the inclusion of the Cronulla Sharks, North Queensland Cowboys, Canberra Raiders and Wests Tigers, more elite players will be part of the rugby league family than ever before and will share in these significant pay increases.
“Whilst the RLPA and NRL continue negotiations, the parties had extended the current amended CBA.
“The above increases will be in addition to the players’ entitlements under the current amended CBA while the parties continue negotiations in good faith.”
Undermining player discussions
But the timing and apparent rushed nature of the announcement has been met with criticism.
The Rugby League Players’ Association expressed its surprise after receiving a 185-word financial proposal on Wednesday.
In a statement, the RLPA: “Today’s announcement has the potential to undermine the ongoing CBA negotiations and therefore the rights of players.
“It is important to note that although the RLPA Board did not reject the NRL’s financial proposal as presented, they were left with no option but to not accept it in the absence of further detail on the full terms.
“It’s not appropriate for the players to be rushed into agreeing to a financial proposal two days before Christmas.”
It increases the gulf between the NRL and Super League, which may struggle to stop its top talent departing for Down Under.
Huddersfield starlet Will Pryce became the latest Englishman to be tempted to the NRL recently, with him set to join Newcastle Knights for the 2024 season.
The Super League salary cap is currently set at a finite amount of £2.1m, but various dispensations mean clubs can spend beyond that.
However, there are multiple clubs that don’t even spend that amount.
Each club is permitted to have two marquee players, where only £150,000 of their value counts towards the cap (or £75,000 if club trained), while each club is given up to £100,000 of dispensation for producing Super League standard players.
The NRL salary cap is now almost four times the amount it was when the competition started in 1998 ($3.25m).
The Super League salary cap was based on 50% of income until 2002, when a fixed ceiling of £1.8m was introduced. Clubs agreed to proposals to increase this back in 2017.
It is expected to be up for discussion as part of IMG’s re-imagining rugby league proposals.