Earlier this week news emerged that the Sydney Roosters were looking to make an offer to Australian rugby union player Mark Nawaqanitawase. This caused a bit of a stir in the media, and a lot of shrugged shoulders among Rugby League supporters.
Still, if the Roosters feel thats the best place to spend their salary cap space, good luck to them.
However, when the media asked NRL CEO Andrew Abdo whether the NRL might look at giving salary cap exemptions to NRL clubs who sign rugby union players, he said it was something the Australian Rugby League Commission would look at.
This of course is utterly insane. Rugby union in Australia is in a perilous state. The current crop of Australian rugby union players aren’t even that good at rugby union! Rugby union in Australia has been absolutely destroyed because of a policy where by they spent big money on a handful of Rugby League players over the past 20 years, neglecting their own junior base, and it has left the game in Australia completely stuffed.
Why would Rugby League look to follow that example?
What the Australian Rugby League commission should be looking at is bringing in bigger discounts for NRL clubs to re-sign their own local juniors. Players who have grown up in the local area, come through all the grades, and give clubs the best opportunity to keep local juniors at clubs once they have hit the big time of NRL football.
We are currently in an historic moment within the sport where by the Penrith Panthers have won three straight premierships, becoming the best team of the modern era, and it has been based around a large core of local Penrith juniors who have come through the ranks.
Whether you love or hate the Panthers, we all agree that this is the sort of model that we are all comfortable with in terms of team building. When any club invests in junior football, they should be rewarded for it. We would all much rather see that then a team who just goes out and “buys a premiership” with players they bought from other clubs.
Right now in the NRL a lot of clubs do a good job of propagating their local junior areas. However every club, even the Panthers, could be doing better.
I’ve always felt that NRL grant that clubs receive that is beyond the salary cap should be based upon how much a club spends on junior Rugby League development. Not just buying the best junior players from elsewhere, actual grassroots junior development.
Clubs should be encouraged to build up their junior bases, and salary cap discounts for local juniors who have stayed at the one club their entire careers would be a great step in that direction.
THAT is what the Australian Rugby League Commission should be discussing. Not looking to waste money on rugby union players!