As we seeing the start of a new code war?
NRL CEO David Gallop speaks to waiting media. AAP Image/Joe Castro
One of The Daily Telegraph’s screaming headlines last week was ‘Wests Tigers utility Tim Moltzen in talks to play rugby union’.
This was the second story in a week that revealed that the NSWRU was trying to sign up an NRL star. The first was in regards to Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, the Roosters forward.
Technically the NSWRU would be getting one back with Waerea-Hargreaves, as the Kiwi has played club rugby in Sydney before and starred for Australia at the under-19 world championship in Ireland in 2007.
But he has definitely made his name in the NRL and with the NZ national team.
So, two highly regarded NRL players in rugby’s sights in less than a week.
There may have been a lot of hoopla and hyperbole around the AFL’s capture of Karmaicheal Hunt and Isreal Folau, but they were stunts pure and simple.
As always has been the case, the two rugby codes battle for players and we may be about to see a newly emerging code war. or perhaps this is just business as usual.
Former leaguie Quade Cooper is tipping to join the NRL following the Lions tour in 2013, going to either Parramatta or the Roosters. How he could handle the defensive load in league remains to be seen.
Ex-Bulldog and shoulder charge merchant Sonny Bill Williams is also coming back to the NRL, if the reports are to be believed, and joining the Bondi boys.
This would be the case of the NRL hitting back and reclaiming two stars, Cooper being a league junior.
But obviously the ARU isn’t sitting back idly. Former Melbourne Storm and Gold Coast Titans product Joseph Tomane is lining up for the Brumbies this season, while fellow ex-Titan Shannon Walker and Brisbane Bronco Denan Kemp are in the Australian Rugby Sevens squad.
Of course, revealing just how inter-twined these two codes are, Tomane was an Australian Schoolboys (rugby) star.
The similar qualities of the two sports means than many players have skills that can be showcased in both codes. The signings of Cooper and Williams, if they are pulled off, will be huge coups for the 13-man code.
The fact that the ARU now has five Super Rugby franchises to fill and the impact of the NRL salary cap means that the rugby union body is always on the lookout for good league talent.
Cooper Vuna and Jarrod Saffey are two ex-mungos playing rugby for the Melbourne Rebels.
Just as Wendell Sailor, Matt Rogers and Lote Tuqiri were signed up at the beginning of last decade as marketing ploys, expect the ARU to continue with a few choice signings in the next few years.
But if the NRL gets its $1 billion broadcast rights deal it will have the resources of its own to hit back by snaring some big-name players, like Williams and Cooper.