NRL clubs lost a staggering total of $53.4 million ($56.9 million NZD) last year, according to a secret financial document obtained by
on the eve of the season kick-off.
It is an embarrassing result for the NRL on the day of its own AGM where it will be revealed the head body also lost more than $2 million ($2.13 million NZD) last year, despite a $50 million ($53.3 million NZD) advanced payment on the new TV deal from broadcasters Channel Nine to help the Moore Park administration and struggling clubs.
The figures show the Parramatta Eels had the worst result in the year of their salary cap scandal, finishing with a loss of $12 million ($12.7 million NZD).
Salary cap fines, Anthony Watmough's $1 million payout, legal fees, staff terminations and the loss of sponsorships from the scandal contributed to the worst financial result of any club in NRL history. Only the thriving Leagues Club business has kept the football club afloat.
Only two clubs - the Queensland powerhouses the Broncos and the Cowboys made profits.
Even premiers Cronulla finished with a loss of $600,000 ($640,000 NZD), despite a multi-million dollars boost from merchandising from the historic grand final win.
The Penrith Panthers also lost $7 million ($7.4 million NZD), blamed largely on the maintenance costs and hiring of Penrith Stadium, a $1.6 million ($1.7 million NZD) grant to junior league and the expense of running their world class academy.
Like the Parramatta Eels, the losses are covered by a multi-million grant from the successful Panthers' licensed clubs.
Penrith is disputing the NRL's figure of an $8 million ($8.5 million NZD) deficit with Panthers boss Brian Fletcher suggesting the figure is closer to $6 million ($6.4 million NZD).
It was also a poor year for the South Sydney Rabbitohs who turned a $1.5 million ($1.6 million NZD) profit from the previous year into a $2.9 million ($3.1 million NZD) loss, despite having the highest membership in the game.
The team's poor on field performances and slump in attendances contributed.
The hefty losses are the reason why the 16 clubs fought so furiously and threatened to bring down independent commission chairman John Grant over the game's future funding.
The club losses have increased by almost $10 million ($10.6 million NZD) annually for the past three years from $30 million ($30 million NZD) in 2014 to last year's $53 million.
Under the new funding model where clubs will get 30 per cent more than the salary cap as their annual grant it is hoped the losses will decrease substantially.
The costs of the NRL propping up the Titans and Knights came to around $6 million.
The Broncos profit of $2.5 million ($2.6 million NZD) according to NRL estimates could be seen as disappointing considering their turnover is $40 million ($42.6 million NZD), almost double the nearest Sydney club.
It is why there is such a strong push for a second Brisbane team to level the playing field.
The NRL declined to comment on the figures until after today's AGM.