Statistically, two or three teams that finished in the top eight in the previous season usually drop out of the top eight in the next season.
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In the wake of Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks fullback Valentine Holmes quitting the club to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL, NRL hierarchy should be concerned that more players may follow suit if Holmes is successful, despite CEO Todd Greenburg stating that he’s not worried about a player exodus.
Holmes, along with Cowboys wrecking ball Jason Taumalolo, went to the US in late 2016 to train in front of talent scouts for several NFL franchises. Not only did they impress during their training session, several talent scouts requested both Holmes and Taumalolo return for another trial.
The NRL went on the offensive and added the NFL to the rule that players could not trial with other codes due to the risk of injury and the promotion of other codes, such as rugby union and AFL, while under contract with an NRL club.
Fortunately for the NRL and North Queensland, Taumalolo signed a ten-year deal keeping him in rugby league for the remainder of his career.
But that said, what are contracts these days?
Holmes still had one year to run on his Sharks contract before requesting his release. If he’s picked up by an NFL franchise, who’s to say it wouldn’t inspire Taumalolo or anyone else from requesting releases from their contracts to pursue the ‘NFL dream’?
Holmes is a marquee talent. He’s a premiership winner, State of Origin and Test representative and a player whom the NRL would use to promote the code. Rugby league can ill afford to lose players of Holmes’ calibre.
He is now being compared to Jarryd Hayne in regard to his path pursuing his own dream to play in the NFL.
In 2015 Hayne received an unprecedented amount of press both in Australia and in the US when he walked away from a million-dollar contract with Parramatta to pursue his NFL dream but without no franchise to go to. He trained hard, showcased his skills and was eventually picked up by the San Francisco 49ers. He unexpectedly made their 53-man squad and played eight NFL games.
Despite cutting his NFL career short to chase his next dream of playing Rugby 7s at the Olympics, Hayne eventually returned to the NRL, where his market value had increased despite being out of the game for almost two years. He signed with the Gold Coast Titans on a contract worth $1.2 million per season.
If Holmes’ path receives the same amount of media coverage as Hayne did and he’s successful in securing a contract with an NFL franchise, the Valentine Holmes brand could significantly increase in value with a rich contract and endorsement deals should he choose to one day return to the NRL.
That in itself would surely be an appealing option for NRL players to seriously consider.
The NRL has been rather fortunate over the past few years with the serious decline in popularity of rugby union in Australia as well as the failed AFL experiments of former rugby league stars Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau, which have made those codes an unappealing option for current NRL stars.
If Valentine Holmes fails in his goal to play in the NFL, it may deter other NRL players from considering the NFL as an option as well.