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New RLPA leader Clint Newton sends a strong message

After being appointed to lead players through arguably the greatest crisis the game has faced, new RLPA CEO Clint Newton declared: “We will get through this together.”

The RLPA announced Newton as the replacement for Ian Prendergast on Friday but the former Newcastle, Melbourne, Penrith and Hull KR forward confirmed his suitability for the job when he resisted tough measures proposed for self-isolation of players at a meeting the day before.

It has been suggested that players could face breach notices if they were spotted in public while the game tries to protect them from contracting COVID-19 but Newton believes they should be trusted to minimise the risk to themselves and team-mates.

The NRL and RLPA will determine the protocols for self-isolation after consulting players over the weekend but it is understood the measures won’t go so far as to preclude them from getting a take-away coffee or filling their car up with petrol.

Pubs, cafes, restaurants and other potentially crowded places will be off-limits to players as the NRL attempts to continue the Telstra Premiership for as long as possible to ensure the viability of the game and clubs.

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“While this appointment is pleasing for me on a personal level, the gravity of the situation that the game is currently facing is significant, but the RLPA team is steadfast with their commitment to help navigate the players through these difficult times,” Newton said.

“Being presented with an opportunity to advance the game by representing players means a significant amount to me and providing the male and female players with a strong and respected voice is my priority.

“For the game to be the best it can be and reach its potential, players will always need to be involved upfront in decisions that impact them, and we must continue working together with all the major stakeholders on a journey with shared objectives.”

Newton has a long association with the RLPA, spending the past four years as part of the executive team in the role of General Manager of Player and Football Operations.

Newton was also heavily involved in the association throughout his NRL career – highlighted by his election as General President in 2013, and his leading role in negotiating the 2013-17 Collective Bargaining Agreement, including organising players to play an active part in that process.

Newton replaces Prendergast, who will depart the RLPA and return to Victoria with his family after a successful four-and-a-half years leading the association.

RLPA Chair Dr Deidre Anderson thanked Prendergast for his immense contribution to the association whilst also welcoming Newton to the role of CEO.

Prendergast, Anderson and Manly captain Daly Cherry-Evans interviewed candidates for the role but decided Newton was the best choice.

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“The RLPA Board and staff were unanimous in their support for Clint leading the Association into the future," Anderson said.

“We believe Clint exemplifies the values of the RLPA and that he will continue to advance the Association, building on the strong platform which has been led by Ian in recent years.

“Clint has already shown great leadership during an unprecedented time for the game, and I believe the RLPA and its members are in excellent hands.”

Prendergast praised the appointment of Newton.

“I can’t think of anyone more worthy of leading the association,” Prendergast said. “It has been an absolute privilege to work with Clint during my time at the RLPA.

“We couldn’t have achieved what we have in recent years without Clint’s passion and values-based connection with industry stakeholders helping drive the approach."