Do we need to look after fringe players?

MG Burbank Roar Guru

By MG Burbank, MG Burbank is a Roar Guru

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    From what I’m hearing about the new Collective Bargaining Agreement soon to be ratified by the players’ association and the NRL, it seems a step in the right direction.

    We need to ensure that the elite players remain in rugby league. This won’t happen through the use of tired rhetoric about “loyalty”.

    But it’s what lies beyond the rise in pay for Origin and Test players that has me asking questions.

    Just how much should we take care of the fringe players in our game? The “toilers”? Right now there seems to be some backlash from the lesser players, stemming from a perceived inequality in how they’re being treated in comparison with the game’s elite.

    Normally I’d be railing against the injustices of economic inequality and demanding an equal hike in salary for all who play in the NRL.

    However, in the fight to keep the best players in the competition, things get a bit murkier. The NRL and RLPA are facing an age-old question: just how much do we take care of those not critical to our success?

    Politicians are often criticised by their most fervent supporters for not doing enough for their “base”. Yet the motivation is understandable: their base will always be there, so why expend excess energy and capital on them?

    The same goes for league’s journeymen. These are players good enough to qualify regularly for the elite league, yet without the talent or developed skill to be critically important to a team’s success.

    They will also always be in plentiful supply.

    These are not the people that the fans turn out to watch. They are not the ones who bring long-term success to a team.

    So how much should they be paid? If paying the top players stratospheric amounts will keep them in our game, does that justify a growing inequality between those players and their contemporaries?

    The discussion over whether or not professional sportspeople are overpaid is for another day. As a teaser, I’ll give myself away: of course they are.

    Outside of that, as a league enthusiast I can also say that our administrators need to enact whatever policy is necessary to keep the game’s champions playing in the NRL.

    If that means tipping the balance a fraction further in favour of the players who make the game popular (not to mention watchable), I will uneasily get behind that, provided that this rising tide of income coming into the game does in fact continue to lift all boats.

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    The Crowd Says (12)

    • January 23rd 2013 @ 4:04am
      Johnno said | January 23rd 2013 @ 4:04am | ! Report

      Build the Base.

      With out the bottom you can’t sustain the top. Rugby union in Australia is finding that out now, with only 5 teams, and no 3rd-tier,
      to build the base. And to much focus on the national team the wallabies at the expense of the 3rd tier.
      You need to look after the greater good to succeed. The 1% of talent must be looked after well, and paid well and more than the average player by a considerable margin too eg $400,000 VS’s $80,000 as a minimum wage, but there has to be a bit of give .
      Otherwise the bottom will just go and get another job and quit pro sport or try there like in french rugby or Japan rugby. There was 1 fringe 1st grader from the warriors who signed up for Japan rugby, and a 1st grader from Cronulla did a few years ago too.
      So yes build the base, best way to, is for the top players to give just a little bit more of there top wage, to sustain the bottom. Then it can keep the game sustainable long term.

      Rugby league this year is having a review in 2013 of all 3rd tier comps, by former NZ rugby league cep Jim Doyle, who now will be working for the NRL,. I hope in the review the 3rd-tier of rugby league gets looked after well too and sustained.

    • Roar Guru

      January 23rd 2013 @ 5:16am
      MG Burbank said | January 23rd 2013 @ 5:16am | ! Report

      Well said, Johnno, but you’re raising two different points. Creating a sound and productive infrastructure, ie. 3rd tier competitions and juniors, is not the same issue as how much we pay journeymen players at the NRL level. I don’t believe that a solid journeyman making $80,000 a year (or even $60,000) is likely to quit the sport, especially since most of those guys probably don’t possess another skill which would give them that kind of salary. Also, losing fringe first-graders to rugby is extremely rare (you cite 2 cases in the past several years); it’s hard to believe that a low-skilled league player would do any better in another code.

      You say “look after the greater good to succeed”. Hard to argue with that, but we also need to define success. League’s success in the modern era has come from a profusion of fantastic talents that we can market to fans who turn out in droves to watch them play. The more of those kinds of players we have, the more we’ll succeed. But of course, having a strong nursery is crucial in that regard so we do need to look after everyone. But it must be proportionate to what they can offer the game.

      • January 29th 2013 @ 2:38pm
        planko said | January 29th 2013 @ 2:38pm | ! Report

        MG They are not going to quit the sport but I personally know players who I wont name that retired recently from playing in Group Football in country NSW. Some players choose to play group football and work at a post football career as it is not worth the risk to stop working and play NRL for a base contract or even a good one say at 150k. The 2 players I know got paid alot more working and playing group than on a base NRL contract eg 80k. Not only were they living in a cheaper house as in not in sydney they also had a ready made career when they “retired”. You have to be pretty sure you are going to be a star at 1, 6 ,7 or 9 to quit a good job & local group football to play NRL.

    • Roar Guru

      January 23rd 2013 @ 5:48am
      peeeko said | January 23rd 2013 @ 5:48am | ! Report

      MG, i think its up to the individual clubs and how they divide their salary cap. for instance the dragons when they won in 09 had the lowest paid top player in the comp but a wealth of players on good money, compare that with Melbourne of last year who have 3 highly paid players and journeymen in a lot of other spots. Any club that signs Thurston for huge dollars is going to have to try the same approach.

    • January 23rd 2013 @ 8:38am
      james said | January 23rd 2013 @ 8:38am | ! Report

      the fringe players just got a 25 grand pay increase, I would be happy with that.

    • January 23rd 2013 @ 9:14am
      Benson said | January 23rd 2013 @ 9:14am | ! Report

      I definitely believe that the fringe players need to be looked after but even more importantly the mid tier players. I can’t think of another sport where there is such a discrepancy between the highest and lowest paid players, in a salary cap system. This also is the case in the English Super League. There is no way in a system of a $5-6 million salary cap that somebody should be getting more than $600-700,000. At Toulouse, the biggest French rugby club the highest paid player is on about 700,000 euros per year yet there are a further 10 players earning between 400-500,000 euros per season. The middle road players need to be looked after.

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      • Roar Guru

        January 24th 2013 @ 2:10am
        peeeko said | January 24th 2013 @ 2:10am | ! Report

        thanks some interesting figures on Toulouse, Benson. good money there in French RU but not quite the huuge numbers reported in the Sydney press

      • January 24th 2013 @ 6:22am
        pogo said | January 24th 2013 @ 6:22am | ! Report

        This could say more about Toulouse’s good sense, apparently racing metro were paying Chabal 1 million euros ($1.8m) a season. They didn’t get their moneys worth though.

    • January 23rd 2013 @ 10:52am
      Phil said | January 23rd 2013 @ 10:52am | ! Report

      As Anthony Griffin said- your 80 000 players can go and play for mining towns earn 150 000(min) a year to work and play footy. These players do not need to have ‘skills’ their footy ability alone is enough to get them a start. You can quite easily find at least 7 ex NRL players in these teams and who’s knows how many more that could have been. When your unsure of when your next nrl game is going to come and going from training in the morning straight to your second job, on top of having your mates from school with half the skill level earning double what you are- working 6 months of the year (7 on 7 off roster) you can see how the nrl wouldn’t seem so hot anymore. You can only love the sport so much.

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