So you know the story. Ben Hunt signs a contract extension with the St George/Illawarra Dragons, then Anthony Griffin gets fired mid season, and it is the final straw for Hunt who asks for an immediate release from his contract.
The Dragons are standing firm, they are saying they will not release him. Behind the scenes it seems like the Dragons are willing to work a player swap deal with the Gold Coast Titans, and possibly less so with the Brisbane Broncos.
Meanwhile the corporate media is in a frenzy, claiming noting about the player contract system works, and some fans get a little misled by all of it, and are unhappy with the whole issue anyway, and I can completely understand that.
So, what should be the outcome of all of this?
Part of me thinks if you’re the Dragons you offer to release Hunt from the remainder of his deal. Just remove the problem. You free up cap space going forward and all of this drama is someone else’s problem.
A player swap would be nice, but keep in mind the Dragons are not going to get anyone too good in return because they would be dealing from a position of weakness. The opposition team knows the Dragons have a player that wants out. Why would they pay overs to help him out?
Then you have the wider question of how having Ben Hunt playing for another club for the remainder of the season undercuts the NRL salary cap a little bit.
Players get paid for their contributions to a club from November 1st each year. That is basically when the NRL’s official season cycle starts. Players get paid from that moment going forward. As you can imagine as we head into July, most of Ben Hunts 2023 NRL salary has already been paid to him.
How far is it to allow Hunt to get most of his salary for the Dragons in 2023 only to switch clubs mid season and give them a top of the line test quality player on what is effectively a discount for the remainder of the 2023 season? It works around why the NRL salary cap is in place.
Still, you would want to see it possible for players to be able to be traded between clubs mid season.
Should a club that receives the overall higher salaried player be forced to match overall salaries to make it fair? Should there be a salary cap penalty the following season if you take on a player with a higher salary?
There’s a little bit of adjustment that is needed here by the NRL. As for Ben Hunt, we will see what happens, but I’d be surprised if he doesn’t end up in the Titans lineup for the remained for 2023.