It’ll be a big week in the NRL for…

Steve Mascord Columnist

By Steve Mascord, Steve Mascord is a Roar Expert

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    We have a couple of important milestones in the history of the NRL being approached right now – or not.

    On one hand, the clubs are hedging their bets about releasing players for the Test in Denver on June 23 (I’m not going to call it ‘proposed’ because allegedly the participation agreements have already been signed).

    And on the other, the NRL is – quite impressively – talking to clubs about publishing the amount each club spends on third-party agreements.

    Let’s start with the second issue first – because if you read this column every week, you’ll expect me to be frothing at the mouth at the first one.

    The salary cap is there to even up the competition. Third-party agreements work in the other direction. They clearly favour clubs in more prosperous areas and basically make the competition uneven.

    For some fans, that’s OK. I know there are plenty of readers out there who prefer survival of the fittest.

    But if we have two mechanisms working against each other and we know exactly how one of them works, then surely it is only fair and equitable that we know how the other works too.

    We are being told reasons why the NRL is even, but the reasons why it is not are being hidden from us.

    So, regardless of where you stand on the salary cap, knowing how much each club spends on third-party agreements should add to your appreciation of the competition’s dynamics.

    If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know how het up I am about the Denver Test.

    I see it as being tantamount to sporting treason to not release England and New Zealand players for a sanctioned Test on a weekend when there are no club games, while happily allowing 34 Origin players to take part in a game in Australia and maybe 50 more to go to Campbelltown.

    But actually, I found Todd Greenberg’s letter to the NZRL, copied to all clubs, somewhat reasonable.

    Todd Greenberg has to fix the NRL.

    John Paul Basile – promoter Jason Moore’s offsider – says it took years to for Moore to convince Major League Baseball sides to come to Sydney.

    Attitudes in professional sports are ingrained and take time to break down.

    But – sorry, the zealot in me can’t help it – in 2010, Sam Burgess missed a game against the Broncos to return to England and play against France. Jeez, we’ve gone backwards since then, right?

    Anyway, I am happy the game looks like it’s on. The Kiwis have to raise a team. The Poms have to raise a team. Players who aren’t released will be unhappy and will probably get their way next time.

    Like John Paul says, we’ll get there eventually.

    Steve Mascord
    Steve Mascord

    Steve Mascord has covered rugby league in 15 countries and worked for most media organisations that regularly feature the sport, on both sides of the globe. He started off as an 18-year-old cadet at Australian Associated Press, transferring to the Sydney Morning Herald just in time to go on the last full Kangaroos Tour in 1994. He spent three years at Sydney's Daily Telegraph from 2006 before going freelance at the conclusion of the 2008 World Cup. Steve is the author of the book Touchstones, host of the White Line Fever podcast, partner in international rugby league merchandise start-up Mascord Brownz, and proprietor of, and He is married to Sarah and splits his time between London and Sydney.

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    The Crowd Says (48)

    • Roar Guru

      February 21st 2018 @ 6:09am
      The Barry said | February 21st 2018 @ 6:09am | ! Report

      “So, regardless of where you stand on the salary cap, knowing how much each club spends on third-party agreements should add to your appreciation of the competition’s dynamics.”

      Clubs don’t spend anything on third party agreements. I don’t think this adds to anyone’s appreciation of anything. It gives clubs and fans yet another excuse to complain and point the finger instead of getting their house in order.

      Say the Storm are playing the Roosters and we know the Roosters have an extra half a mill in TPAs. Does that make them a half mill better team than the Storm?

      Say Taumalolo has a million dollar deal with Nike finalised on the eve of a game. Are the Cowboys now a million dollar better team?

      This idea that the TPA arrangements are unfair is such a furphy. The rules are the same for every club. Every club starts from the same point. Every club has access to basically the same market. Maybe, maybe the regional clubs have a point…except the Cowboys do fine with TPAs and they’re the most remote NRL club in Australia.

      Why do the West’s Tigers struggle for TPAs when the Bulldogs do ok? Is it because the Tigers are in a less “prosperous area”? Rubbish. Better check the real estate prices in Balmain versus Bankstown.

      By your “prosperous area” rationale the Tigers should have TPAs lining up outside their door throwing money at them.

      I don’t really care if the details get published or not but let’s not pretend it’s to add to our appreciation of anything. It just gives the complainers and excuse makers another excuse.

      A test in the US is a great idea. Scheduling it in the middle of the NRL is season is a terrible one.

      • Roar Pro

        February 21st 2018 @ 7:53am
        Stuart McLennan said | February 21st 2018 @ 7:53am | ! Report

        Not sure that the West’s Tigers do have much connection with Balmain these days.

        • Roar Guru

          February 21st 2018 @ 8:24am
          The Barry said | February 21st 2018 @ 8:24am | ! Report

          Yeah fair enough but sort of misses the point.

          The Tigers have a connection and presence in that area. If all there is to TPAs is being in a prosperous area the Tigers should be killing it.

          But even when the club was more Balmain than Wests they struggled with TPAs.

          My point is that it’s excuse making: “we don’t have TPAs the NRL must do something about it”

          Instead of: “we don’t have TPAs we should do something about it”

          • Roar Guru

            February 21st 2018 @ 8:38am
            Emcie said | February 21st 2018 @ 8:38am | ! Report

            Just look at Cam Smith, his longest sponsorship is through All Trades QLD at the other end of the country

            • February 21st 2018 @ 11:41am
              jimmmy said | February 21st 2018 @ 11:41am | ! Report

              That’s a very good point Emcie. With Billy , JT and Cam Smith, I think they could play for just about any club and get similar 3rd party deals . It is they status as special players that attracts the deals , not so much where they play.

      • February 21st 2018 @ 8:11am
        RandyM said | February 21st 2018 @ 8:11am | ! Report

        I kind of agree here. I think the TPA issue has been blown out of proportion a bit. You also have to factor in that clubs in less prosperous areas like Penrith, Canberra (although 3rd highest house prices in the country), Newcastle have access to much bigger junior nurseries than Roosters, Storm, South Sydney. Brisbane gets the best of both worlds of course..which is why the NRL needs a second Brisbane team.

        • Roar Guru

          February 21st 2018 @ 8:30am
          The Barry said | February 21st 2018 @ 8:30am | ! Report

          I think the impact of TPAs are completely overstated.

          Everyone keeps naming the Broncos and Roosters as the teams that have an ‘unfair’ advantage yer the Roosters have one premiership in the last 15 years. The Broncos have one in 17.

          That’s bang on what they would get in a random distribution.

          Yes I admit I’m cherry picking those years but if TPAs were such a huge advantage those clubs would be far more successful.

          You make a great point too. Everyone bangs on about evening up TPAs but no one says let’s carve up our junior area and give the Roosters more turf.

          • February 21st 2018 @ 8:45am
            mushi said | February 21st 2018 @ 8:45am | ! Report

            Hey I’ve said the roosters would happily take half of the Bronco’s junior development “burden”

            • Roar Guru

              February 22nd 2018 @ 6:25am
              The Barry said | February 22nd 2018 @ 6:25am | ! Report

              Maybe Hollywood can assign a movie star supporter to every club to make it fair…

      • Roar Rookie

        February 21st 2018 @ 8:25am
        Don said | February 21st 2018 @ 8:25am | ! Report

        I agree Barry.

        And to drill down even further; a couple of years ago we all were told Robbie Farah was contracted @ almost $1m for his final year at the Tigers. At the same time we were told Cameron Smith was signed at the Storm for $1m.

        So, we had the NSW and QLD hookers both on about the same money. Makes sense.

        However, more than 30% of Smith’s contract is earned through TPAs . The Tigers apparently were bearing the full liability of Farah’s contract in the cap.

        That is the difference between a well run club maximising the value of and for player to the advantage of both.

        Rather than some club’s fans complaining that they can’t compete with other clubs because TPAs make it unfair, they should hold their club management accountable for why they carry the “full freight” for their top player contracts.

        • Roar Guru

          February 21st 2018 @ 8:33am
          The Barry said | February 21st 2018 @ 8:33am | ! Report

          Agreed Don.

          It’s pretty simple but it’s a seismic shift in attitude for NRL clubs and fans.

      • Roar Guru

        February 21st 2018 @ 8:35am
        Emcie said | February 21st 2018 @ 8:35am | ! Report

        If you’re going to release TPA numbers then you have to do it per player. Releasing it by club just leads to further speculation and finger pointing (though i think people might be surprised by the results). At least if its per player we can see if the TPA’s are deserved, which is the real issue and yet hardley addressed by those in the media. I have got to admit, it does make me laugh when Paul Kent will have a whinge about TPA’s and then introduce the next segment where they will have players on for paid appearences. TPA’s are just used by the media to generate outrage, which inturn generates clicks and sales

        • Roar Guru

          February 21st 2018 @ 4:05pm
          Nat said | February 21st 2018 @ 4:05pm | ! Report

          Hi Emcie,
          I think that’s the ultimate goal for the TPA complainers is to know the individual values of each player contract so thy write the story about their value. As TB has pointed out repeatedly, it has made no significant difference to the premiership outcome. At the moment, it is a story of ignorant speculation and when their theory falls in a hole, the team are just ‘under performers’. If they are successful, the story is all about their TPAs.

          • Roar Guru

            February 21st 2018 @ 5:49pm
            Emcie said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:49pm | ! Report

            I don’t think there’s any end goal here, it’s just low hanging fruit. It doesn’t take much effort to write a piece broadly complaining about a subject that most readers won’t understand

      • February 21st 2018 @ 10:43am
        Gray-Hand said | February 21st 2018 @ 10:43am | ! Report

        I get the sense that the claim that TPAs significantly unbalance the competition is shortly going to go the same way as that old chestnut about short turnarounds killing the chances of certain teams.

        Once there was enough data, a three year academic study disproved it (but did show that long distance travel was a big factor).

      • February 21st 2018 @ 12:28pm
        Paul said | February 21st 2018 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

        sorry TB, I don’t think publishing TPAs is about fairness or unfairness at all.

        In this day and age of supposed transparency, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to know what amounts players are earning through TPAs as well as their regular contracts. What Joe Public does with that information once it’s announced is entirely up to them.

        Rugby League is supposedly a professional code yet this approach of hiding information is not professional at all. If it’s no big deal as you suggest, then it should be no big deal to put this information onto the table. It’s kind of ludicrous that I can find out exactly what the Prime Minister of Australia makes in salary and entitlements but I don’t know what someone makes playing for a Rugby League club!

        • Roar Guru

          February 21st 2018 @ 12:45pm
          The Barry said | February 21st 2018 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

          Fair enough Paul.

          But do you apply that logic to every sportsman?

          Should Steve Smith have to announce all his sponsors and their value? Nick Kyrgios? Tim Cahill? Ellyse Perry? I rarely hear of the same pressure to know what other sports people receive from their private sponsors as opposed to rugby league players.

          It’s all well and good saying its no big deal to put this information on the table, but if you were a player would you want your private financial information made public? Would you if you were a sponsor? I wouldn’t in either case.

          The Prime Minister comparison is ridiculous. You’re talking about public office versus a footy player’s private financial information.

          Yes, the NRL should know so they can check the validity of the deals. That’s their role. The public have no role to play in that process and there’s not one compelling reason other than satisfying our own burning curiousity that the information should be made public.

          • February 21st 2018 @ 2:22pm
            Paul said | February 21st 2018 @ 2:22pm | ! Report

            TB, this is only an issue because of the various scandals that have occurred over the years about player payments, bearing in mind it goes back to at least the ’70’s and the Dennis Tutty case. It’s not about curiosity on the public’s part, it’s about being fully informed about an issue so I and others can make an informed decision about simple things like what level of support I might give a Club..

            The same logic I used about the PM’s salary can equally be applied to the CEOs of companies which are private sector, bank heads, QANTAS, etc. They’ve all been in the spotlight for various reasons in recent years and their renummeration is public record, so again, why isn’t it the same for footy players? It’s actually ridiculous these facts are not divulged because it implies there is a negative reason why we can’t be told.

            • Roar Guru

              February 21st 2018 @ 4:20pm
              Nat said | February 21st 2018 @ 4:20pm | ! Report

              Hi Paul,
              I think you are confusing two separate issues there. Illegal payments made by the club are not TPAs. TPAs are paid directly from private enterprise then recorded and approved by the NRL just as the player contracts are. If a club has organsied improper payments then you have every right to show your support as you wish but don’t base it on speculation. Further, NRL players are athletes (essentially employees) not executives of listed companies or elected officials where taxpayers or shareholders money has been invested. That’s why their salaries are public knowledge and both have to declare any donations/gifts to demonstrate no inherent bias.

              Be sure that if a player finds themselves in trouble, their TPA will be torn up faster than their NRL contract will be. The NRL has a higher tolerance for poor behaviour than a private company.

              • February 22nd 2018 @ 12:54am
                Paul said | February 22nd 2018 @ 12:54am | ! Report

                I understand what you’re saying Nat, but I’m not confusing anything. I’m not talking about illegal or legal payments, I’m simply asking to know what payments a player for a Club I support receives. I truly do not understand why this is such an issue when I’m sure I could find out the renummeration for at least 80% of the working population of Australia with little effort, but I can’t find out what players get form TPA and, more to the point, from whom.

            • Roar Guru

              February 21st 2018 @ 4:23pm
              The Barry said | February 21st 2018 @ 4:23pm | ! Report

              Public disclosure of TPA deals doesn’t do one single thing to prevent a club rorting the salary cap.

              CEOs salaries aren’t made public because there’s a spotlight it’s because these are listed companies and disclosure is a legislative requirement.

              • February 22nd 2018 @ 1:03am
                Paul said | February 22nd 2018 @ 1:03am | ! Report

                I dunno if you’ve misread my comments but I’m not talking about people in the spotlight. You said my early comment, using the PM was “ridiculous” so I used other private enterprise people instead. I could just have easily used a mid level bureaucrat at a health company but that would have probably been meaningless to you.

                I’m also not talking about rorting the salary cap and have no idea where that came from. I’m simply wanting to know how much a person receives so I can decide, for example, what level of support I may or may not offer that Club.

                I’d also like to know which outside organisations are offering funds to players. Is that also unreasonable?

              • Roar Guru

                February 22nd 2018 @ 5:59am
                The Barry said | February 22nd 2018 @ 5:59am | ! Report

                I’m really not following now Paul.

                Are you saying that you need to know how much each player receives in TPAs to ‘work out’ how much you support each club? I don’t understand what that’s got to do with it. For example why would the amount of Cameron Smith’s contract with Fox influence how much you support Melbourne?

                You’re asking for players privacy to be breached so you can work out how much support to give each footy team in the comp. Fair enough I guess but I’ve never heard anyone wanting to know TPA details for that reason before.

                But you can’t say this isn’t about public curiousity and then state the only reasons for wanting to know is so you can work out how much to support a team. That’s the definition of public curiousity. It’s also a tenuous reason to breach an individual’s privacy.

                Why do you think you can find out the remuneration of 80% of Australia’s workforce?

              • Roar Guru

                February 22nd 2018 @ 6:08am
                The Barry said | February 22nd 2018 @ 6:08am | ! Report

                Sorry…I really don’t get this idea of supporting a club based on how much their players get in TPAs.

                I don’t know who you go for but say you’ve got a soft spot for the Cowboys. You’ve admired Thurston for a while, like their young players coming through, bought into the emotion around their grand final win, think Paul Green is a good operator and respected how they battled to the grand final in 2017 through all their injuries.

                Taumalolo suddenly gets a 500k deal with Nike, are you going to drop the Cowboys.

                I get it’s a personal thing but TPAs seem the worst thing in the world to base your support for a club on.

              • Roar Guru

                February 22nd 2018 @ 6:35am
                The Barry said | February 22nd 2018 @ 6:35am | ! Report

                You’ve also said this isn’t about rorting but when I asked if you wanted to know other sports star earnings you said it was about league because “of the various scandals that have occurred over the years about player payments, bearing in mind it goes back to at least the ’70’s“

                But never mind, if you only need to know players third party deals to work out how much to support the team surely that extends to every sportsman and athlete in the world?

                So are you posting articles demanding to know Smith, Cahill, Perry, Kyrgios’ sponsorships to work out how much you should support each of them and their teams.

                It’s an interesting idea “I think Kyrgios is a tool, but I really like his sponsors so I’m going to cheer for him. Except at Davis Cup. I really don’t like how much Tomic’s sponsors are paying him so I’m not going to cheer for Australia”

              • February 22nd 2018 @ 6:48am
                mushi said | February 22nd 2018 @ 6:48am | ! Report

                “I’d also like to know which outside organisations are offering funds to players. Is that also unreasonable?”

                Yes. Compared to how the rest of society is treated definitely.

                You know those rich list things are, really rough, estimates because it’s impossible to legally get a hold of the exact figure of all sources of income for those “public figures”

                “so I used other private enterprise people instead. I could just have easily used a mid level bureaucrat at a health company but that would have probably been meaningless to you”

                Well not really because you wouldn’t be able to get full details of every source of income for said mid level employee at a private health company if you’re just a random punter in the street wondering which clinic to go to.

                Most will actually have a two way confidentiality clause.

                Also you incorrectly used the CEO example. That example would be for publishing the figures payable under the cap, not TPA’s.

            • February 21st 2018 @ 5:17pm
              mushi said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:17pm | ! Report

              “The same logic I used about the PM’s salary can equally be applied to the CEOs of companies which are private sector, bank heads, QANTAS, etc. They’ve all been in the spotlight for various reasons in recent years and their renummeration is public record, so again, why isn’t it the same for footy players? It’s actually ridiculous these facts are not divulged because it implies there is a negative reason why we can’t be told.”

              I love it how you kick off with the word logic in the first sentence and then descend into illogical ramblings. Seriously logic died when your fingers hit the keyboard.

              1. The CEO equivalent in the NRL isn’t every single player it’s Greenberg. If you could pull up the exact salary of your flight attendant including every third party source you’d have a small window of calling this argument “logical”.

              2. Even then lets take Qantas, their reporting won’t have every third party source of income for Mr Joyce just what Qantas pays him. The annual report won’t give his external speaking fees, rent on an investment property, or an detail the expenses picked up on someone else’s account for a conference. Why well…

              3. We’re entitled to the, far less expansive than you suggest, information because it’s considered executive salary is relevant for an investment decision as they are publicly traded companies. It’s not a hey – scandal happened you now need to start publishing executive rem.

              4. The obvious. Footy players =/= CEO’s of major economic contributors to our society. Seriously any argument which is premised on an NRL player is basically the same as a CEO at any of the largest companies in Australia died at the moment of conception.

    • February 21st 2018 @ 6:22am
      BA Sports said | February 21st 2018 @ 6:22am | ! Report

      I have no problem with TPA’s – Publishing them I am torn on. On the one hand it shuts everyone up (in theory) who say the Roosters are rorting it when they are not one of the top clubs. On the other hand, Club fans and Boards will see the list and question why their club isn’t at the top (even though clubs shouldn’t be assisting). So I see pressure – behind closed doors – being put on the management of clubs like the Dragons (at the bottom of the list) to engage in activities that are in breech of the rules…

      Play in the US. Try and grow the game commercially and increase it’s exposure. Why are people against trying things? That said the way players are backing away from the NZ national team currently, the team may resemble their NSW Cup side… But then maybe that wouldn’t be a bad thing..

    • February 21st 2018 @ 7:25am
      mushi said | February 21st 2018 @ 7:25am | ! Report

      On your second point I think the only thing publishing those numbers will do is create a flash point for sports journalists to again posit theories and changes they are fundamentally unqualified to comment on.

    • February 21st 2018 @ 7:46am
      peeko said | February 21st 2018 @ 7:46am | ! Report

      Agree about having the Denver test but comparing RL with baseball is inaccurate

    • February 21st 2018 @ 8:22am
      Christo the Daddyo said | February 21st 2018 @ 8:22am | ! Report

      Yeah, I have to agree with others about the TPAs.

      They’re more a reflection on how each club is run and how good each player’s manager is aren’t they? It’s got very little (if anything) to do with where a club is located. The only thing the NRL should do is to ensure each club has reasonably equal TV coverage (i.e. don’t give the Broncos a Friday night game every week or two). That way the club’s can compete on their professionalism (under their control) rather than be hamstrung by something outside of their control.

    • February 21st 2018 @ 1:48pm
      KenW said | February 21st 2018 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

      Common thread in the comments is that TPAs are about the players, not the clubs and no club has an advantage because of this. That’s fine as far as it goes – it’s certainly the intent of third part agreements, the player is free to seek outside sponsorships and the club has nothing to do with them.

      Except, does anyone really believe that’s the case? It seems naive to think that the clubs themselves aren’t lining up at least some of these sponsorships – at sufficient arms length of course. And if that’s the case then it really is a salary cap booster for clubs that have better access to sponsors, more TV games, better corporate facilities, etc.

      Probably not one we can do much about though – regardless of whether the TPAs are published or not. And I agree that clubs can improve other things like marketability of their club and players to improve their position.

      • February 21st 2018 @ 5:28pm
        mushi said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:28pm | ! Report

        First this underlying ideal that salary cap is about fairness is naive. It is about cost control. It is embarrassing how easily we NRL fan’s swallowed the kool aid on that.

        But even saying that was the case and unicorns roam western Sydney, certain clubs will have an advantage sure. But it’s an abject failing in the logic of commentators around the salary cap that advantages don’t exist elsewhere uncontrolled by the cap.

        Location, junior catchments, purchasing power, current success, spending on non player aspects etc all are advantages.

        There will never be a system that will be elegant and sophisticated enough to mitigate every natural advantage a club has to create a perfect level playing field.

        And let’s say I’m wrong and we do create said level playing field that takes into account human behaviour and future trends in way never seen before by mankind…. we get a perfectly balanced competition. Presumably this comes with perfect consistency in refereeing and luck is taken out of the game…

        Did we just create 8 draws a week and a really confusing final series? What is the end game in “parity”

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