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As we head into 2018, there’s plenty of reason for those at NRL HQ to be filled with optimism.
However, as with any business, there are always areas that could do with some improvement. Here is a list of New Years Resolutions that should be on every NRL executives list.
The situation we have at the moment, where players can sign for other clubs more than a season in advance, is a bad look for the game, and needs serious attention. Personally, I don’t like the idea of a post-season transfer window, which has been touted as a possible solution, as it leaves off-contract players with an uncertain future.
It’s not fair to expect a fringe first grader to wait until October to know whether they have a job in January. I’d rather see a post-season transfer announcement period. This allows players and their managers to negotiate with rival clubs throughout the season, allows players to settle their futures, but prevents players, managers and club officials from discussing player movements until the conclusion of that players final season.
The media speculation will still continue, but fans won’t have to endure an entire season knowing their idols will be playing for another club next season.
The salary cap
The NRL credits the salary cap for evening out the competition and spreading the talent pool among all the clubs. However, fans have grown sceptical of the entire salary cap process. And when the same clubs make the big signings year after year, can you blame them?
As far as the fans are concerned, the entire salary cap process happens behind closed doors. Bringing transparency to the salary cap will provide the fans with confidence that the system is working the way they are told.
To achieve transparency, the NRL should make the details of player contracts public. Doing so will ensure absolute transparency and accountability, and end the constant doubt over the buying power of some clubs. Then the fans can see if, as some clubs insist, two plus two really does equal 5.
Now that the NRL has successfully secured the futures of both Newcastle and Gold Coast, the NRL should revisit the idea of expansion. By the end of 2018, the NRL should be in a position to announce both the location of the expansion clubs, and a timeline for their inception.
It seems a foregone conclusion that a second team in Brisbane will be the first new team added. The NRL’s big job is to work out where the other team should be based. There are plenty of candidates putting their hand up for inclusion, including Perth, New Zealand and Central Coast, however as much as I’d love to see the Bears return, I can’t see the NRL squeezing another team between Sydney and Newcastle.
It’s possible the NRL may consider adding two clubs from Queensland. Whatever the NRL decides, it’s great for the game to see so many regions vying for inclusion in the NRL competition. However with seemingly only two additional clubs to be added, clearly there are going to be a few disappointed.
The international game
After the success of the lower tier nations at the recent World Cup, the time is now for rugby league to grow the international game. Let me be clear though, it is not the NRL’s job to grow the international game.
The NRL does not own rugby league, however as the dominant competition, any opposition to increasing the number of internationals played would surely kill the idea.
The fans have proven that there is an appetite for international rugby league. And while the clubs and NRL HQ may view internationals as a threat to the national competition, they should realise that international football gives them a product that the AFL cannot compete with.
By elevating the international game to it’s rightful place as the pinnacle of the sport, it can effectively elevate the rugby league, and by extension, the NRL, to a level above anything the AFL could ever hope to achieve. With the level of investment the AFL has made into rugby league heartland, the NRL needs every advantage it can find.
There are plenty of other areas of the game that the NRL could include on this list, from growing crowd numbers, to working out what to do with the Nines format.
One thing is for certain though, 2018 shapes as a pivotal year in the games future.