Hint of talks follow week of civil war
AUSTRALIAN rugby league ended its most traumatic week with a slight hint of a compromise between the warring factions that are tearing the game apart.
Rupert Murdoch's powerful News Corporation finished the week a points winner over the establishment after signing many of the game's top players for its rebel Super League, as well as gaining acceptance from both the Great Britain and New Zealand leagues.
The embattled Australian Rugby League (ARL) backed down from its threat to expel rebel clubs yesterday as it continued its fight to stave off international media tycoon Murdoch's rebel league.
The expulsion of clubs from this season would have forced Murdoch to kick-off his 1997 Super League early, maybe this year.
But after a meeting between officials of the 15 clubs still loyal to the league yesterday, senior league official John Quayle hinted peace talks may soon happen.
'There is always room for compromise,' Quayle said.
The dispute centres around the television rights to the game, presently held by rival media baron Kerry Packer.
Murdoch is desperate to secure rights to show the game on his pay television network to be introduced to Australia shortly.
The players were the big winners this week in a mad scramble for signatures as News Corp and the league sent player payments on a massive inflationary spiral.
Murdoch's men struck the first blow, ambushing the league by signing many of the game's top players from Canberra and Brisbane in a surprise raid.
Star players like Canberra's Laurie Daley, Brad Clyde and Ricky Stuart and Brisbane's Allan Langer signed for over A$1 millon per season.
Players were also offered incentives of between A$20,000 and A$50,000 for signing on the spot.
The Super League contracts won't come into operation until the players' contracts with their current clubs expire.
ARL officials quickly retaliated to the News moves by banning all players who have signed from representative football, including the prestige State of Origin series and the World Cup.
Illawarra's popular coach Graham Murray was sacked by his board for arranging negotiations between the Super League and his players.
Cronulla football manager Shane Richardson quit after receiving death threats and has joined the Super League.