It’s taken a while, but Dave Smith has once again confirmed he is the man to drag Rugby League into the 21st century with the salary cap changes that will allow the NRL to chase high profile athletes from other sports all the while topping up contracts of our own elite stars to ensure they don’t jump ship.
It’s been a long time coming and over the years some high priced talent has walked out the door. Names such as Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau could be lured back to Rugby League and players such as Greg Inglis, Daly Cherry Evans and Jarryd Hayne would forever remain in Rugby League or if they left, it would not be a financial decision, assuming they were going to the almost broke Australian Rugby Union.
Since the inception of the NRL in 1998, player wages have seen moderate growth in 16 years and only now are most players played their true market value. Better late than never I guess…
Pathways to the NRL are more clearly defined and elite talent is nurtured from a younger age, ensuring the future growth of the game is in safe hands and a career for elite young talent is not throwing at a dartboard. There is more certainty knowing that you will be paid fair market value if you perform on a consistent basis.
The fly in the ointment for the NRL is the player managers. We are sure to see all player managers try to up their clients asking price by using other sports as weapon against the NRL in a bid for a higher contract for their client. The quality of the player and their asking price will be at the discretion of Dave Smith come January 1 and what he believes the players value to the NRL is worth above and beyond the highest offer received is.
There are sure to be challenges as to who gets paid and who doesn’t. We are talking the games absolute elite talent and I doubt that list would go beyond ten players and even then, some are on the wrong side of 30, so where is the line drawn? Thurston, Cronk, Slater and Smith are all over 30 so if push comes to shove, who do you keep and how much do they get? Smith definitely, Thurston a definite maybe but Slater and Cronk would be allowed to walk if I were the one controlling the purse strings. Nothing personal, this is purely a business decision.
What this does demonstrate is the relative financial strength of the game given this move is unprecedented after a long period of stagnant and below average wages and salary caps that was mismanaged by the previous administration, one that left very little in the kitty. Broadcasters and rights holders will be happy to see their capital outlay to obtain the rights is being put to good use and that the product they rely upon for much of their revenue and profit, is being guaranteed for well after the current deal expires.
Dave Smith and NRL management are to be commended for this bold move and whilst a long time coming, it is evolutionary and decisive. It will also send shock waves through the halls of the ARU, knowing no elite player is safe from the NRL.
My only wish is to ensure the new system is not abused and a club like the Roosters can throw big money at Folau or get into a bidding war with a “lesser”team for the same amount and have the NRL top up his payment when they already have many marquee players on their books.
It’s not a perfect system but it beats doing nothing at all.