Greater Incentives Needed To Allow Star Players To Play For One Club

As a Penrith Panthers fan, I didn’t want to see Cooper Cronk leave the Melbourne Storm.

Having been talent scouted by the Storm, developed, given his first grade debut and blossomed into a super star of the game at the club, I thought it would have been tragic to see Cronk leave the Storm and ply his trade at another club.

The current Melbourne Storm team is party of a Rugby League dynasty that is the best team in my lifetime. The big three of Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk, all coached by Craig Bellemy, will be the standard by which I rank all teams that play in the future.

The Melbourne Storm are interesting to look at. When they entered the competition they basically build their team with the available players from the likes of the Hunter Mariners and Perth Reds, both of which had been shut down as part of the reunification after the Super League War.

They lucked out in that many of the players they ended up with were just about to hit the peak of their careers. They got players that were a mix of hard workers, experience veterans and out and out stars ready to have break out seasons. All of them were brought in, and yet, the Melbourne Storm would quickly become a team that would become successful on the back of talent identification, coaching and players development.

When Brett Kimmorley left, in stepped Matt Orford. When Matt Orford left, in stepped Cooper Cronk. This is a club that went from buying an entire team to developing one… has been a remarkable transformation.

Now young players want to go and play for the Melbourne Storm because they know they will be better players for it. Surely that sort of environment is one that Rugby League should be looking to encourage and give intensives for teams that develop such high levels of talent.

Cooper Cronk has been a first grader for the Melbourne Storm for 8 years now. He has played nearly 200 first grade games for the club.

In my opinion most of Cooper Cronk’s salary shouldn’t even count towards the Melbourne Storms salary cap at this point. Is that and advantage for the Storm? Yes. Do they deserve to have that advantage by developing a super star player? Absolutely!

I think if a player has played at one club and and reaches 200 first grade games, only 50% of his salary should count against the teams salary cap. When he gets to 250 first grade games, it should drop down to 25% of his salary counting towards the salary cap.

If you have developed a player that has played at your club for his entire career and he has played 300 first grade games… him what ever you like, it shouldn’t count towards the salary cap at all.

The Parramatta Eels should not have to pressure someone like Nathan Hindmarsh to retire to free up salary cap space and ensure they can sign players for the future. Hindmarsh should be able to retire when he wants, without the salary cap even being a consideration.

As an opposition fan, I would not have any issue at all with Nathan Hindmarsh not counting towards the Parramatta Eels salary cap.

We have a lot of player movement in Rugby League, most of it confined to fringe first graders and youngsters looking for a bigger pay day. However, when it comes to iconic players that are the face of a club, these players should be encouraged to stay at the one club.

Think forward to the day when Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk retire. Imagine them all retiring as Melbourne Storm players. How fantastic would that be!

There is nothing better as a fan than cheering for a player that has played his entire career at your club. He is one of your players. Others can come and go, but he is always going to be your star. That feeling a fan gets about an iconic, one club player, it can not be measured.

When a one club star like Cooper Cronk becomes available, the choice should be simple. Except more money to stay at the one club you have always played for, or except less to leave and look for a new challenge.

I for one am glad that Cronk decided to stay at the Melbourne Storm, for less money. However the NRL needs to make sure that in the future a player is not put in that same position again.

We should be rewarding players for showing loyalty. Loyalty shouldn’t come at a cost.

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