For over a decade Rugby League in Australia found itself living on a tight budget. The aftermath of the Super League War actually saw salaries shrink considerably. This was followed up by under funding after the game signed off on poor broadcasting deals, and it created a situation in which teams were spending the least amount of money they possibly could to maintain a high quality competition.
After signing off on the games new $1 billion deal last year, you knew all of that was going to change. Salary caps were set to rise by a huge amount over the five year broadcasting deal and there was a worry about how clubs would handle those rises.
Right now the National Rugby League has 16 clubs that all have salary cap space to spend, and boy are some of them having fun spending it!
We are now seeing the first real signs of the financial clout the NRL has. Players are moving between NRL clubs on huge deals that in the past would have meant they were some of the best players in the game. Super League is about to be decimated as NRL clubs start to soak up all the talent they can possibly find. Don’t be shocked if as the season goes on we see NRL clubs buying a new Rugby Union players as well….after all, its better to spend the cap space on someone rather than have it sitting around being wasted.
This is all something I predicted would happen. The National Rugby League and its 16 clubs are going to cannibalize every single Rugby League and Rugby Union competition in the world as they look to fill out their squads with depth and take risks on players they hope will be able to make a transition into the NRL.
As a Rugby League fan, I’ve grown up dreaming of this day. I watched the Super League War take its toll on the game and I saw the way the game in Australia had to hold itself back and remain a sustainable business. All of those tough years for the game are now paying off, and it will start a new era for Rugby League in the southern hemisphere.
One thing the games leaders need to look at though are the effects this will all have on Rugby League competitions elsewhere. Like it or now, Rugby League in Australia has a responsibility to Rugby League across the rest of the world.
As a game we can not afford to allow competitions in other parts of the world be destroyed by the NRL’s success. It will get to a point where a player in Super League, French Rugby League or the United States Rugby League competitions can earn more money played in the NRL’s feeder competitions in the NSW or QLD Cup than they will be able to earn as a star player in their home competitions.
I personally think the ARL should look at ways to develop overseas competitions and maybe even develop them into official feeder competitions for the NRL. Invest some money in them, send talent and coaching over to them. Don’t just take, give something back. Even if it is for the selfish reason that the NRL wants to keep taking talent from these competitions, they need to be safeguarded and their long term futures need to be protected.
We are just seeing the start of a very exciting time in Rugby League. I’ve no doubt we will see some incredibly exciting moves being made over the next few years. As a Rugby League fan, it is fantastic to see. I just hope the powers that be don’t forget to look after the competitions some of this talent comes from.