Time for the NRL to introduce player trades

Ryan O'Connell Columnist

By Ryan O'Connell, Ryan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    Ben Barba has been done for cocaine and is off to France. AAP Image/Paul Miller

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    The NRL headlines over the weekend – Geoff Toovey’s epic whinging aside – were dominated by the news that Ben Barba has asked the Bulldogs for a release from the final two years of his contract on compassionate grounds.

    Barba’s former partner, Ainslie Currie, and the pair’s two daughters are looking to settle in Brisbane, and Barba has expressed his desire to move with them.

    The Brisbane Broncos are naturally keen to sign Barba, with reports the club has a four-year contract ready to offer the fullback should the Bulldogs grant him a release. In fact, in an intriguing development, Brisbane are willing to pay the Bulldogs compensation in return for allowing Barba to sign with them.

    The financial agreement between the two clubs would essentially be a transfer fee, common in many other sports around the globe, most notably European football.

    However, the story took an interesting twist with the notion that a swapping of players between the clubs could be an ideal resolution to the problem.

    Brisbane fullback Josh Hoffman was the man-of-the-match for the Broncos in their win over the hapless Parramatta Eels on Friday night and is the first-choice fullback for New Zealand.

    However, despite Hoffman’s form, should Barba end up signing with Brisbane, he would be required to move away from his favoured position to accommodate Barba’s brilliance in the number one jersey.

    So with the Bulldogs suddenly needing to replace Barba, there was an astute observation that perhaps the Bulldogs and Broncos should simply swap players.

    Hoffman isn’t quite in Barba’s class, so the swap wouldn’t exactly be fair or equal, but money could be thrown into the deal to even the ledger up. And at least the Bulldogs wouldn’t be left with nothing – from a personnel standpoint – in exchange for granting Barba a release.

    In any case, the potential swap was squashed when Hoffman declared he wanted to stay at Brisbane, and potentially to move to five-eighth.

    However, if Hoffman was open to moving to the Bulldogs, it stands to reason that an arrangement that benefited all parties could have easily be worked out.

    Which naturally raises an interesting question: should the NRL formally introduce official player trades?

    My opinion is an overwhelming ‘yes’.

    Though the details and rules would need to be thoroughly thought out, there’s a lot of merit in allowing clubs to trade players.

    Contracts provide security and assurance to both players and clubs. However, there invariably comes a time when either a player would like to leave a club, or a club would like a player to go.

    In such instances, a club is always required to honour a contract, or runs the risk of legal issues, yet players generally seem to have their wishes fulfilled one way or another.

    The introduction of player trades could potentially enable both player and club to sever ties in a mutually beneficial manner.

    In the face of increasing player power, there certainly needs to be a system in place that helps protects the clubs.

    I’m sure fans in the nation’s capital would agree with me.

    The Canberra Raiders have been forced to lose Todd Carney, Joel Monaghan and Josh Dugan in the past due to disciplinary issues. Their current fullback Anthony Milford has asked for a release from his contract, and there were reports last week that Origin winger Blake Ferguson has done the same.

    In all five cases the potential to trade a player would ensure the Raiders aren’t left with nothing when a contracted player leaves the club.

    The Raiders aren’t the only club that could have benefitted from a trading system.

    Representative players Luke Lewis and Michael Jennings left the Penrith Panthers in acrimonious circumstances after last season. The two players were no longer wanted by the club, and neither wanted to be at the club. They therefore moved to the Cronulla Sharks and Sydney Roosters respectively.

    Both players were on significant money at Penrith and are undeniably talented. Yet the Panthers not only got nothing in return when the players left but are reportedly still paying part of Jennings’contract with the Roosters.

    Trading the players would have enabled the Panthers to get something in return for two stars departing the club, if they so desired.

    You could list countless other examples where a trade would have been a useful option for a player and/or club in the NRL.

    As mentioned, the details and rules would definitely need be carefully considered and designed before such a system is implemented, but I think it’s a no-brainer.


    Ryan O
    Ryan O'Connell

    Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.

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    The Crowd Says (149)

    • August 20th 2013 @ 3:17am
      Johnno said | August 20th 2013 @ 3:17am | ! Report

      Best article I have ever read on the roar. This has to happen in the NRL.
      Walkley Award lol. Hit the right content.

      • Columnist

        August 20th 2013 @ 9:33am
        Ryan O'Connell said | August 20th 2013 @ 9:33am | ! Report

        Ah, the ups and downs of being a Roar writer. My ‘whinge’ about the English cricket team was labelled the worst article in the history of The Roar!

        • August 20th 2013 @ 9:52am
          Meesta Cool said | August 20th 2013 @ 9:52am | ! Report

          Maybe you should stick to NRL then… Just a suggestion!.. I have been advocating similar ‘trade/transfer options for years, Clubs such as Raiders, Eels, Panthers and others that are pouring money into talent development, SHOULD be rewarded for their efforts. Apologies to Oikee, I forgot his Broncos.

          Good article Ryan, I hope someone from the games hierarchy that has a bit of sense views it and takes it to committee!. — oh the joys of having a well balanced commission, lead by someone with brains and foresight!..


          • Columnist

            August 20th 2013 @ 10:13am
            Ryan O'Connell said | August 20th 2013 @ 10:13am | ! Report

            Stick to NRL? I know more about cricket than I do league!

            • August 20th 2013 @ 10:21am
              Meesta Cool said | August 20th 2013 @ 10:21am | ! Report

              who’s opinion is this statement based on… hehehe.

        • Roar Guru

          August 21st 2013 @ 6:38pm
          Myles Stedman said | August 21st 2013 @ 6:38pm | ! Report

          Damn Ryan! Had been thinking this for ages – had never thought to put pen to paper!!

    • August 20th 2013 @ 4:18am
      Silver_Sovereign said | August 20th 2013 @ 4:18am | ! Report

      Little Barba wont win the Broncs premierships. Their problem is in the forwards and halves. Fullback is covered with Hoffman

      • August 20th 2013 @ 6:30am
        eagleJack said | August 20th 2013 @ 6:30am | ! Report

        From what I understand the Broncos will be using Barba in the halves. They have an obsession with turning fullbacks into 5/8’s (Norman, K Hunt) after the successful move by Lockyer. But he was top shelf, one of a kind.

        • August 20th 2013 @ 6:05pm
          Djcooper said | August 20th 2013 @ 6:05pm | ! Report

          Sorry eaglejack but that comment was wrong. Norman was signed as a 5/8 and that is the position he wants to play. Hunt was signed as a fullback and only played for QLD once as a 5/8 but never for the broncos. Think you will find Locky is the only one that was moved to 5/8 but he started there aswell and had to move to fullback because of Kevin Walters.

    • August 20th 2013 @ 6:50am
      Terry said | August 20th 2013 @ 6:50am | ! Report

      Totally agree. Clubs that produce and mould junior kids into 1sts graders need some compensation for this type of rubbish from the ‘poor’ players. Certain seems are making a habit of picking them up and they should pay up.

    • Roar Guru

      August 20th 2013 @ 7:00am
      steve b said | August 20th 2013 @ 7:00am | ! Report

      Yes Ryan I think trades is the way of the future , but the fiasco about Barba is a joke this guy created the problems in the first place , the dogs have bent over backwards trying to sort out his problems . Then he says I want out so I can be close to my family who are leaving me because I was a tosser, we are all responsible for our own actions . The league needs to penalise these contract brakers not pander to their every need. Compassionate grounds what a load, he blew it and now the Dogs fans and the club suffer all because he couldn.t keep his s–t together , and then cries oh poor me when it all hits the fan , Ungrateful to the max .

      • Columnist

        August 20th 2013 @ 9:30am
        Ryan O'Connell said | August 20th 2013 @ 9:30am | ! Report

        I think the needs of the Bulldogs run a very distant second to the needs of his daughters, Steve.

        • August 20th 2013 @ 10:23am
          Wozzat said | August 20th 2013 @ 10:23am | ! Report

          Perhaps Barba should have thought about his daughters before he went AWOL at the beginning of the season and drove them and their mother away?

          • Columnist

            August 20th 2013 @ 10:25am
            Ryan O'Connell said | August 20th 2013 @ 10:25am | ! Report

            Because I assume you’ve never made a mistake in your life?

            • August 20th 2013 @ 11:05am
              Wozzat said | August 20th 2013 @ 11:05am | ! Report

              I have made mistakes (albeit not to the extent of Barba) thus I believe that I can cast stones. I think Barba issues go beyond his family however a variety of his indiscretions have put him in this position.

              • Columnist

                August 20th 2013 @ 12:56pm
                Ryan O'Connell said | August 20th 2013 @ 12:56pm | ! Report

                That’s a fair enough point.

            • August 20th 2013 @ 11:17am
              Wozzat said | August 20th 2013 @ 11:17am | ! Report

              That being said I think the the idea of a player trade is a great idea to allow situations to where a player and their club can come to an arrangement with another team and resolve the issue of both

        • Roar Guru

          August 20th 2013 @ 11:34am
          steve b said | August 20th 2013 @ 11:34am | ! Report

          Mate I agree but where was that thinking , before he ran off the rails he wasn’t thinking to much about his family then, he knew what he was doing when he signed the contract , and because of his indiscretions and only his he should have some penalty match payments , something , for not honouring it but to just be allowed to walk away from those who helped him in every way possible with no penalty I think is wrong . The contracts aren’t worth the paper their printed on , and whats the difference to a person who has to work away in a different state to make ends meet and travel home when it allows , to much pandering and not enough hard ball for mine .

          • Columnist

            August 20th 2013 @ 12:57pm
            Ryan O'Connell said | August 20th 2013 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

            I can see both sides of the argument, I honestly can. But I think his kids come first, football second. Does that fly in the face of a contract? Absolutely. Is it fair on the Dogs? Absolutely not.

            I don’t think there is a perfect solution to this Barba problem.

        • August 20th 2013 @ 1:41pm
          Chris Martin said | August 20th 2013 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

          Thats very true. Its also why the NRL should introduce a rule that if you leave a club for compassionate grounds you can only sign with the new club for the same period of your current contract and at the same wage.

          That will stop guys going for more money and claiming compassionate grounds.

          Its a fairly easy rort now. Any player with a family if they get offered a large contract from a team interstate can pretend to split from their partner who ‘moves’ to that city and move on compassionate grounds himself. Not at all saying Ben did this , I believe his story , but ensuring the contract stays the same , it removes the opportunity to rort.

          • Columnist

            August 20th 2013 @ 6:24pm
            Ryan O'Connell said | August 20th 2013 @ 6:24pm | ! Report

            Yep, I’d agree with that idea, Chris.

    • August 20th 2013 @ 7:10am
      oikee said | August 20th 2013 @ 7:10am | ! Report

      Look, this really is poor handling by the Bulldogs now you look at it, and i really hope Greenburg does a better job at NRL headquarters, because the cover-up of the Barba incident at the beginning of the year is now back to haunt the bulldogs, and Greenburg is looking exposed.
      He should have been let go, way back when this meltdown started, not a shonky rehab quick fix that was never going to solve the problem. Barba is young, has a ongoing issue with his young family, and he should really have been expelled from his contract when this all started, and the Dogs would not be in this position now.
      Look, the code has to improve the way these young players are being exploited, because lets be real, they are exploited because they are great players. You dont win a Dally-M award for being hopeless.

      The real problem is the amount of pressure these clubs put on these kids, and if it continues, maybe contracts with any kids signed from Queensland to Sydney clubs should have one year contracts until maturity of at least 23-25.
      It is common knowleadge men mature more slowly than women, studies have been done, plus relationships can turn nasty when away from family support.
      None of this is taken into account, after all, we are a football code, not a maternity ward.
      No, things have to change, and the salary cap and juniors signings have to be part of that change. amen.

      • Columnist

        August 20th 2013 @ 9:32am
        Ryan O'Connell said | August 20th 2013 @ 9:32am | ! Report

        Oikee, just a couple of counter-points to your comments.

        Firstly, how was there a cover-up in the Bulldogs handling of the Barba issue? They’re the ones that came publicly forward and stood him down. How is that covering it up? True, they didn’t outline the details of why, but that was done under professional advice. Not releasing sensitive information – that the public has no right to know – is not a ‘cover-up’.

        Secondly, there was no quick rehab fix. The professional advice that Barba and the Bulldogs received was that it would be best for his mental well-being for Barba to get back amongst his family and natural habitat. Part of that ‘family’ was his footballing family. Lots of people want to believe that the Bulldogs rushed him back because they needed him. It’s a good story, but it’s not true. And having spoken to a mental health professional, she backed up the assertion that returning to one’s daily routine as soon as possible – once deemed fit – is certainly a course of action that professionals recommend.

        • August 20th 2013 @ 10:19am
          Sleemo said | August 20th 2013 @ 10:19am | ! Report

          See if Barba had chosen to go to the Broncos, or the Cowboys (the closest club to his Mackay home), they would have taken care of him properly and none of this would have happened. And that way, Barba would be playing for a Qld club (the state from which he comes) and he would not just be another example of greedy Sydney clubs “raping” Queensland of its talent.

          Right Oikee?

    • August 20th 2013 @ 7:23am
      Bondy said | August 20th 2013 @ 7:23am | ! Report

      Good subject Ryan, theres word about on NRL 360 that a “young” lad from Canberra wants to move to/back to Brisbane what the Broncos need to do is pay the Raiders 300,000 for that player to go there Brisbane, Brisbane have then paid for the services of the player and the Raiders get the money for investing their time and resources on the lad, now currently he walks for free, thats wrong and unfair on all clubs

      In relation to a transfer window it could possibly be put in place for around about Rd 16-18 where the transfer window is an emergency beacon where or when you’ve been hit viscously with 4-5 ” key” players being long term injuries, also a transfer window gives you the opportunity to throw out any troublemakers at your club who are just there sponging for the money too.

      Transfer windows are emergencies last resorts and should be utilised as such, I tend to agree the B Marshall Auckland Blues situation is not a good look and I would have thrown Benji straight out of the club for doing that.

      • August 20th 2013 @ 10:03am
        Meesta Cool said | August 20th 2013 @ 10:03am | ! Report

        I have always advocated that a transfer fee equal to two years salary ( rated at the highest amount for the duration of the contracts Promised salary by the receiving club) should be the base amount for transfers, this would make clubs think a bit more before they ‘poached’ ready made young players from other clubs, on the promise of a BIG salary.

        Player trade would also be good, BUT, the player/players being swapped MUST agree to the move.

        • August 20th 2013 @ 11:59am
          Scott Minto said | August 20th 2013 @ 11:59am | ! Report

          How would this work for players not in the top playing squad? Would there still be a transfer? ie players like Daly Cherry-Evans who couldnt get a gig in top grade until Manly wanted him. Should they be paying a transfer for this, or are they simply giving a player an opportunity when they didnt have one before?

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