League, not union, is showing the benefit of funding the grassroots

AJ Moore Roar Rookie

By , AJ Moore is a Roar Rookie New author!

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    It all began in January this year when St George signed Ben Hunt for approximately $6 million over six years, which is one of the most expensive signings of the game.

    Regardless of whether you believe Hunt has earned his massive payday or not, that isn’t the biggest issue that has arisen from the monster deal.

    The biggest effect of the signing was the rapid inflation of the player market, which has resulted in player managers using Hunt’s value as a benchmark for their clients.

    Their argument is if Ben Hunt can make over $1 million a season being a club player with no Origin or international experience, why shouldn’t players like Mitchell Moses from Wests Tigers be making the same money?

    Moses was asking for over $750K from the Tigers, which, as history has shown, was found to be an unacceptable amount.

    Mitchell Moses Parramatta Eels NRL Rugby League 2017 tall

    (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    This is all intertwined in a still-running battle between the NRL and RLPA about next year’s salary cap, which needs to be resolved before it becomes a Cricket Australia-style slugging match.

    The riddle the two sides are arguing over is an age-old sporting conundrum. Is it better to pay current players enough to secure a life after football, or to fund the next generation of stars?

    The same dilemma has plagued the Australian Rugby Union for years, with a flailing Super Rugby enterprise looking more fragile every day and the Wallabies being continuously thrashed worse than a late 2000s Origin Blues team by the Kiwis.

    The simple fact of the matter is nobody wants to go watch union, and one symptom of this is the fact most of their stars (Israel Folau, Karmichael Hunt and Marika Koroibete) are all poached from rugby league and not extracted from their own grassroots.

    The NRL is thankfully not facing the same problem, with many young players coming up through the ranks such as Kalyn Ponga and Nathan Cleary showing the funding of the up-and-comers is paying its dividend.

    They can’t afford to grow complacent though, and that is why they are so reluctant to give in to the demands of the RLPA without some haggling.

    Funding of junior sports is always a preventative rather than a cure, and it might seem like you can short-change them in exchange for keeping stars such as Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk in the game.

    However, every legend of the game began as a small kid in a loose footy jersey drinking Gatorade after a Saturday junior game with his mates. If you don’t give them the proper opportunity to play, we’ll end up with games filled with millionaire 40 year olds, and that’s only acceptable in tennis.

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