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NRL players tread on shaky ground

John Davidson Roar Guru

By John Davidson, John Davidson is a Roar Guru

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    Australia’s elite rugby league players need to be careful in their negotiations for their new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

    Few people would be against NRL players being paid what they are worth and receiving their fair share of the game’s revenue. They, and the fans, are the game and without them there is no game.

    It’s that simple.

    But talk of strikes and delays to the start of the season can only hurt their cause.

    Comparisons can be made to America and the lockouts that have occurred in the NHL, NBA and MLB in recent years until your blue in the face. But we are not the United States.

    The NRL exists in a much smaller and much more competitive market. It is effectively a two-state sport with a relatively small participation rate compared with the big ratings, media profile and audience figures it generates.

    The NRL is thriving at the moment, but it has been a long path to get to this stage.

    Those with short memories will have forgotten the dramas of the mid-1990s when rugby league was torn apart and the introduction of Super League caused chaos. All of the gains made in the previous decade or so before that, including expansion, were lost.

    Players received ridiculous sums, clubs went under and the game spent millions that it never got back on a war that was detrimental and painful to all involved.

    Today’s NRL players are more professional and play in a sport that is more popular nationwide.

    But they must remember that while some parts of the rugby league structure are sound, such at the top, is not necessarily the case at the bottom.

    Bush footy is struggling and competitions like the NSW Cup battle for relevance. Participation levels are way behind the likes of AFL, cricket and football and more development officers are needed.

    Virtually every NRL club apart from Brisbane is in some sort of financial pain. Stadium suitability issues stain the competition.

    Margins are tight and debt is commonplace.

    I believe the NRL salary cap should be increased, as well the marquee player allowance. A decent minimum wage should set as well as a retirement fund.

    But to increase the salary cap to $7 million by 2017 seems a step too far.

    Monumental and strategic growth is needed, not increases that threaten stability.

    Rugby league is enjoying a boon in broadcast and sponsorship fees at the moment. But for the sport to prosper in the future we must ensure all areas of the game are looked after, not just the players.

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    The Crowd Says (5)

    • February 7th 2013 @ 8:03am
      NWR said | February 7th 2013 @ 8:03am | ! Report

      A good overview the players I trust have been advised by the RPA and the NRL of the funds required to sustain the CRL and Metroplitan competition both at junior and senior level. Our game is simply not for the elite sportsman it for every boy who dreams of playing for their favourite team. I hope common sense prevails for the good of all players of rugby league.

    • February 7th 2013 @ 8:03am
      NWR said | February 7th 2013 @ 8:03am | ! Report

      A good overview the players I trust have been advised by the RPA and the NRL of the funds required to sustain the CRL and Metroplitan competition both at junior and senior level. Our game is simply not for the elite sportsman it for every boy who dreams of playing for their favourite team. I hope common sense prevails for the good of all players of rugby league.

    • February 7th 2013 @ 8:04am
      oikee said | February 7th 2013 @ 8:04am | ! Report

      “”more development officers are needed””. . “”Stadium suitability issues stain the competition.””
      Right on the money. Can i also say that we have grown the game each and every year since the war.
      The last TV deal helped us in a way. We had to fight for every penny, and make do with what we had, which was very little.
      Even then, we never took a backward step, we got attacked by other codes for players, and we still keep most of our elite.

      2 things have already impressed me so far. And remember, we have only just signed a 5 year deal. So we are still yet to spend any money on development, “the NRL Logo”.
      Every time i go to a league site i can now find the Logo we are all under the one banner.
      That alone gives me confidence in our code.
      The 5 year plan is the second. I looked at the five year plan, read it through, very impressive. What impressed me most was they made no outlandish targets. I was expecting huge growth, but no, they have allowed about a overall growth of about 10 to 15 % over 5 years.
      Some are a little higher, but on the whole, good steady progress, and that is about right. Even average crowds is only looking at 20 thousand. And i noticed you mentioned that yourself. Stadium suitability.
      It is hard to grow crowds if you aint got the stadioums, i wrote about this the other day. Apart from Suncorp, we have not got another stadium in the country above 45 thousand for rectangle codes, and that is the SFS.
      Hard to grow huge crowds if your not got the grounds for growth. Needs to be looked at.

    • February 7th 2013 @ 9:15am
      mushi said | February 7th 2013 @ 9:15am | ! Report

      Basically any dollar they get needs to be taken from somewhere else in the game.

      The “without them there is no game” applies a lot more to junior competitions in suburbia than a few top flight athletes who have other top flight athletes waiting to take their place.

    • February 7th 2013 @ 10:42am
      Ian Whitchurch said | February 7th 2013 @ 10:42am | ! Report

      The other issue the players may be grumpy about is if the money being paid to coaches, assistant coaches and so on keeps going up as the cut of the money going to the players goes down.

      Personally, I’d hit two birds with one stone – as a player on a NRL contract, part of your pay is paid out in the 10 years after retirement, if you keep serving the code as a captain-coach, or just be a coach, for rugby league team in a junior competition.

      For example, Hamid Umida plays 3 years of league at $80k a year. Due to the new TV money, an extra 25% of his pay goes into a trust fund, so there’s $60k sitting there. After he’s cut from the NRL and cant find a new club, he goes and coaches his son’s under-10s side … and the six grand a year, plus any accumulated interest is released.

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