Last year the AFL made a decision that to them, Israel Folau was worth $1.5 million dollars a year. This made him the richest player in AFL history, and he had never played the game, at any level. Not even as a kid.
This week, Kyle Eastmond has made the decision to take a big money offer and sign for the Bath Rugby Union club. I have no doubt he will be a huge success in Rugby Union, after all, Shontayne Hape is a walk up start in the England Rugby Union side!
When these signings happen, the result is usually that people say the salary cap is the problem and these players would still be playing Rugby League is the cap was higher, or abolished all together.
But would they?
If the salary cap was removed tomorrow, would anyone pay $1.5 million dollars for Israel Folau? Is any winger in the game worth that much money?
For Kyle Eastmond, the sums are smaller, but you have to question how much a young, injury prone England halfback is worth, who has shown no signs of having a kicking or passing game, and who is predominantly a ball runner, when he can stay on the pitch long enough.
The salary cap might get the blame the the fact is that St Helens just didn’t think Eastmond was worth the asking price.
People seem to forget sometimes that a players value in Rugby League is sometimes a lot lower than it is to other sports.
For instance, in the early part of the last decade when the Australian Rugby Union was spending millions of dollars buying Rugby League players, they made Wendell Sailor, Lote Tuqiri and Matthew Rogers millionaires.
At the time a lot of people were once again blaiming the NRL salary cap for these players leaving the game.
The fact was though that, as a niche’ sport in a crowded market, the ARU felt these players were worth the extra market as they tried to crack into the main stream of the Australian sporting psyche.
As it turned out, that didn’t end up being the case. They spent a lot of money on players that carried their marketing for a few years, and then those players left as Rugby Union in Australia fell into the abyss.
You then had a player like Berrick Barnes and Kurtley Beale. Barnes left for Rugby Union after failing to make a mark for the Brisbane Broncos early in his career, and he is earning a decent amount with the ARU. However, he just would not be worth that in Rugby League. Why buy him when you can try a young bloke for cheaper who, in all likely hood will be better.
Beale, a former Rugby League junior, is always being talked about as a player that will one day go back and try his hand as playing Rugby League. The problem is, who is going to sign him? You are taking a risk on an untried players that comes as a fairly sizable cost, when you could have a few minimum wage players at the same price and chances are at least one of them will do a better job!
With the AFL, they paid $3 million dollars to get Israel Folau and Karmichael Hunt on their books. They needed stars to promote their sport in NSW and QLD and they felt these players would not only help that cause, but they also felt they would market the game to Polynesian sports fans who just couldn’t give a stuff about the AFL.
In Rugby League, those two players aren’t worth $3 million dollars!
At some point, the smart thing is to say to these players “If you can get that much money doing something else, good luck to you, because you’re not getting that much money here” and you end negotiations.
The NRL is lucky, it turns out so much new talent every year that players who leave the game as usually replaced very quickly.
Super League doesn’t have this same embarrasment of riches, but at the same time they do know that there will always be an import to buy at a reasonable price as well.
Who would you want at halfback for your Super League club, Kyle Eastmond, or say Brett Finch?
Outside of the few superstars we have in out game, the likes of Billy Slater, Darren Lockyer, Benji Marshall, Greg Inglis and Jonathan Thurston, a player is only worth his actual input on the field of play.
On that scale, Kyle Eastmond might have been a good player. We’ll never know. One thing is for sure, he is not worth the money in Rugby League that Bath have offered to pay him.
Thats not Rugby Leagues problem. Its actually its strength.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com