NRL gets another reminder of how modern sport works

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There’ll come a day when no-one will be surprised at any outcome of contractual negotiations.

That day, for those previously seen as cynics, arrived a long time ago, but some are still living in an age where athletes actually played the sport they loved, administrators made it easy and creating a legacy was king.

The NRL and Parramatta were, for some strange reason, left stunned yesterday after it was revealed that Israel Folau wouldn’t be coming “home” to rugby league, but instead had succumbed to the temptation of rugby union.

If either party didn’t see this coming then they have a lot to learn about the way modern sport operates.

Today, a Wallaby becomes a boxer, a Queensland and Australian fullback turns to the AFL while a fellow Maroon decides to try every sport possible.

Anyone for squash?

For some it’s about the challenge, but ultimately the dollar dominates the decision making process.

That’s nothing new and there’s not anything particularly wrong with it.

Folau has every right to earn as much as he can while his talent permits him to perform.

It’s easy for fans to be up in arms about the landscape, but faced with the same choices, wouldn’t you do what is best for your family?

The shock and surprise from administrators when these decisions are made is stunning in itself.

Welcome to 2012 where the equation is simple.

A player puts themselves on the open market and then goes to the highest bidder.

If officials treated it more like a house auction they wouldn’t be surprised after finding out they didn’t get the mansion after lodging the lowest bid.

Players have been going to the highest bidder for years, but usually within the one code.

It used to be the code they loved playing and never considered walking away from.

Now, it’s not who is paying the money, but just that money is being paid.

It was interesting seeing Ricky Ponting’s retirement news conference on Thursday afternoon.

The former Australian captain is one of the last remaining links to an era where people were so passionate about the sport they played that nothing except age could make them give it up.

Yes, he earns more than any rugby league player could dream of, so the comparison is slightly unfair, but if Punter was an AFL or NRL player he would’ve been a one club man.

It’s also important to note that loyalty is a two way street and clubs don’t always take that into consideration when contemplating a players future.

Take Petero Civoniceva as an example in 2007.

Here was one of the best props in the game, a role model athlete and star performer. For all of that he receives what he, and many others would’ve considered, was a paltry offer compared to his standing in the game.

It’s not entirely Folau’s fault and he’s hardly breaking the mould with his choices.

The NRL played its part by bizarrely refusing to register what would’ve been a heavily back ended contract starting in 2013.

If the player is happy to accept the deal in that form then officials at head office shouldn’t be bothered.

It’s not as though there hasn’t been precedents set in this area with Mark Gasnier’s cut-price return to the Dragons one of the most recent examples.

It’s up to the club to juggle their salary cap and if they can convince a player to sign on reduced terms with the promise of vast riches to follow, then good luck to them.

Parramatta’s suggestion that they be allowed to break the salary cap next season before operating on a reduced cap in 2014 was bordering on lunacy.

Did they really think the NRL or the other clubs would be happy with that arrangement?

The whole saga hasn’t been a great look for anyone involved.

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