Following Braith Anasta’s signing with Wests Tigers for next season, the Daily Telegraph’s Phil Rothfield wrote an opinion piece entitled ‘player transfers undermine the game’.
It outlined why, after securing the billion dollar TV deal, sorting out a new transfer system was the number one issue for the NRL.
While it’s never worth getting in a twist over Phil Rothfield’s opinion, since Beau Scott signed with the Knights a few weeks ago just about every league writer in the land has gone in to overdrive on why a transfer system needs to be put in place, generally citing ‘the fans’ as the main reason for creating one.
Yet just how a transfer system, or a draft, or any form of player movement between clubs will be better than the current system is yet to be explained.
The argument against the current system is something along the lines of how is a fan supposed to support a team knowing one of its stars is off to a different club next year?
Jamal Idris is generally held up as the poster boy for this argument.
How were Canterbury fans supposed to get behind the Doggies when they didn’t retain the services of their cult hero and, worst of all, had to play 20 games knowing this, with Idris announcing his departure just prior to round six?
While the Bulldogs missed the finals (on points difference only, coming ninth on the ladder) their home games were the second most attended in the entire league, with an average of 19,528 per game meaning only the one-team town of Brisbane had higher gate takings.
Sure Idris leaving the club was a letdown for Canterbury fans but any true fan knows the club they support is bigger than one player. As a consequence they don’t abandon the game, don’t boo Idris and certainly don’t go out and buy a Titans jersey.
How would any of this change if a draft or transfer window was implemented?
Would players cease to move between clubs? Would managers stop looking for the best deal for their clients because they’d rather make less money in exchange for the honour of being a one club player? Would fans never see the players they love leave the club they support except at the end of a glittering career?
The answer to all these questions is obviously no.
The game is a business and, as such, players are looking for the best deal they can get. If that means moving to a new club in a different city then that’s what they’re going to do.
While it’s disappointing watching a player as devastating as Idris swatting away defenders like flies but knowing he’ll be doing it for a different team next season, what’s worse – knowing there are a limited number of opportunities left to see a player you love to watch wearing your team’s colours or not realizing they are going at all because they make the move at season’s end with no prior warning?
Neither situation is going to make for a happy Bulldogs supporter because, either way, Jamal Idris is leaving their club.
The June 30 deadline for anti-tampering was scrapped in 2006 for the simple reason it didn’t work.
Players approaching the end of their current contracts were free to have coffee with whomever they wanted and so too were coaches looking to sign those players. Nothing had to be signed for a deal to be struck.
As Wayne Bennett said at the time, “if you’ve got a rule you can’t enforce, get rid of it.”
Perhaps the perfect example of this was Braith Anasta who left the Bulldogs (supporting the Doggies must be tough) after signing with the Roosters on July 13 2005 – just twelve days after the anti-tampering deadline had past but months after talk of him joining the tricolours had started.
The fact this still occurs today was alluded to in Rothfield’s article, when he said “The Roosters skipper joins a long list of our NRL heroes… to reveal after just four rounds they are headed elsewhere next year. And they are just the ones we know about.”
So whether a transfer window is implemented, an anti-tampering deadline re-instated or even a draft created, players are still going to leave their clubs in search of greener pastures, deals are going to be made outside of the stated rules and fans are going to be disappointed.
However, as stated earlier, fans know their club is bigger than one player and for every Braith Anasta who leaves, there’s a James Maloney on the way to pick up the pieces.