COVID cuts deep for pampered NRL stars

More than 100 NRL players - including State of Origin stars - will be forced to buy their own boots this year amid a COVID-19 forced cutback from sport companies including Nike.

In a rude shock for a generation of spoiled footballers, industry wide cutbacks will see a host of NRL stars making their way to sports stores like Rebel to purchase their own footwear.

The Daily Telegraph has been told that some leading companies have cut "product in kind" sponsorships by more than 50 per cent in a move that will see elite players paying up to $400 for a pair of boots.

Nike's top of the range boot is the Phantom GT Elite custom which retails for $410 while the Adidas Predator Freak retails for $400.

The days of the $1000 "show bag" - jammed backed with footwear and the latest apparel - are over for the run of the mill NRL player with only marquee players like James Tedesco and Jason Taumalolo to get the goods.

Kayo is your ticket to the best sport streaming Live & On-Demand. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >


A leading player manager revealed even a State of Origin player in his stable had been knocked back from a product only deal with a leading company.

"Even Origin players are being knocked back," said a leading player manager.

"There have been some massive cutbacks with one company going from 120 NRL players to 40. That was two-thirds of their NRL roster. I know it is a similar situation with the other big companies. I lot of guys have been flicked and we have been scrambling to sort them out."

Believed to be part of COVID-19 cutbacks and an international supply chain strain, Nike refused to comment on the NRL boot snubbing.

"That is confidential information that we keep internally," a Nike employee said.

"We won't reveal details of our strategy or approach. I am not at liberty to comment."

Many players will be forced to buy their own boots in 2021 due to cutbacks over COVID-19. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Many players will be forced to buy their own boots in 2021 due to cutbacks over COVID-19. Picture: Phil Hillyard

The industry wide cutbacks will hit other major sports including the AFL with several players on each AFL club's 38-man list to be stripped of deals.

A spokesman for Adidas also refused to comment on the cutbacks but several leading NRL accredited agents confirmed they had a number of players in their stables without product deals.

"I would say they have all cut down by at least 30 per cent," said another agent.

"I have never seen anything like it but these are unusual times. The deals are still there for the elite players but those fringe first graders will certainly not be getting boots this year."

Originally published as COVID cuts deep for pampered NRL stars