How Long Before Super League Clubs Become Feeder Teams For The NRL?

It is one of the questions I have been asked the most over the last few days.

With the financial crisis in Super League seeing three of the competitions 14 clubs fall over in the last 12 months, people realize that something has to give, and it is probably the ability of Super League to hold onto players of any quality.

Unfortunately for Super League clubs, they compete in a competition that simply can not generate the income they need to sustain their current salary cap levels. There is an understanding that Super league will either reign in spending, seeing the competition lose talent, of natural attrition will dictate that Super League clubs must scale back their spending anyway.

Either way, Super League clubs are on borrowed time. The current salary cap levels are simply unsustainable.

So when the Super League salary cap comes down, current Super League players will need to look at the alternatives. There are plenty of them too!

Rugby Union will be the easy move, to the point where I wouldn’t be surprised in the RFU channeled some funding towards some northern based sides to take the strain of them signing Super League players. If you are a fringe Super League star, you could go and play in Scotland, Ireland, Wales or France and ply your trade. Hell, if you are semi competent, you can walk your way into a Rugby Union test side and earn far more than you ever did in Super League anyway.

Some of the hardcore Rugby Leaguers will look to head to the National Rugby League. Some will find they can earn more money there, others will earn less. Some might not even be wanted while other still may look to just make some sort of career in the lower grades.

It is a big move though and no everyone can handle being so far away from their family. Just ask Gareth Ellis.

So what if Super League clubs as one decided to bite the bullet, go to the NRL and set up an official system where by Super League clubs would secure funding from the NRL in exchange for becoming a feeder system for the NRL?

On the NRL’s television broadcasting deal alone, they will be earning $250 millions dollars every single years for five years, starting from 2013. If Super League clubs could even secure $7 million per year out of that, that would be $500,000 Australian dollars every years going into every single club. That would make a fairly big difference to most teams.

NRL clubs would need to get something out of it though….

Super League could be a handy development league for some Rugby League players in Australia that need a few extra seasons to develop into first grade players. It could also be a good place to send young coaches to get hands on experience coaching a professional, senior side.

Now Super League fans will rightfully be saying “League Freak, we don’t want your second best” but consider this. At one point the likes of Craig Bellemy, Michael Maguire, Geoff Toovey and the like were stuck behind an established coach at a top club and had to make do either coaching junior sides or reserve grade teams.

Imagine if those coaches instead were sent over to England and were competing against one another. If Super League, instead of being a wasteland for terrible coaches, because the place where developing coaches learned the trade and had their final lessons before looking to step up into the NRL.

You can’t tell me that would be a bad thing for the British game.

The same thing may happen in regards to players. If clubs knew they were sending players over to get coaching from someone they trusted, they would send players to England to mature into NRL quality players.

I remember a number of years ago Feleti Mateo actually went down this pathway, going from the Parramatta Eels, then playing half a season with London, before going back to the Eels the following season.

I look at a team like the New Zealand Warriors, who had all three of their grades make their respective Grand Finals last year, as the perfect example of a club would would be open to the opportunity of allowing some of their players to experience a different level of competition than they can currently afford them.

The Warriors have a lot of young stars of the future in their Under 20’s team that will have to go somewhere. At some point, they will simply lose players because they can not give them the playing time they require to develop further as players.

What if the Warriors were able to send some of these players to a Super League club to get some senior football under their belt? It would allow the Warriors to asses these players for a longer period of time, and if they show promise, they can put them on a plane and throw them into their NRL team.

The distance would be the biggest issue with a plan such as this. Jet lag I don’t think would be too big of a problem as it is when a whole team is dealing with it. I think simply getting a player on a plane in time and getting them training with their NRL team before a game would be the biggest problem.

NRL clubs would want to take English talent, there is no doubt about that. NRL squads are expanding to 30 players, and those players have to come from somewhere.

It would be a bitter pill to swallow for a Super League fan to see their clubs best English born players being called up into the NRL, but if the alternative is for Super League to descend into a semi professional competition in which those players leave anyway, it may be something they learn to live with.

It would take a lot of humility from current British Rugby League types for this to ever happen. I’m sure there are plenty of people that would say they’d like to see Rugby League in Great Britain die on its feet rather than living on its knee’s. People like that are shorty sighted, the type of attach their ego’s to their football club.

If Super League teams were able to secure a life saving revenue streams from Australia in exchange for an influx of great young coaches a player, I can’t see why that would be a bad thing.

If tomorrow we found out that the London Broncos would receive $500,000 Australian dollars a year from the Brisbane Broncos in a deal that would see them gain an Australian coaching staff and a group of the Bronco’s best young players, I’m pretty sure you’d find other Super League clubs feeling pretty left out.

Super League clubs will need to think outside the box if they want to remain part of a vibrant club competition that has any sort of future. Just a 26 hour flight away there are Rugby League teams that will be sharing in the biggest bounty that Rugby League has ever seen.

It would be beyond stupid if Super League clubs did not look at a way to tap into that money themselves, even if it meant handing over some level of control to the world leading Rugby League coaches and players.

It wouldn’t be such a bad thing really.

Either way, Super League will soon become a shop window for other competition looking to pick the eyes out of every club that can’t beg for £1,000,000 in the space of a few weeks. Either people watch their players leave to play Rugby Union, or they leave to play in the NRL.

Rugby League in Great Britain only has so long until it won’t be able to pick its poison.

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