As the 2020 NRL season draws closer, the inevitable predictions about who will make the top eight begin doing the rounds.
Like most Australians, Michael Maguire thought the loan system at play in British sport was a bit weird.
Sport is tribal, after all, and which tribes loaned their best fighters to other tribes?
It’s like selling players off mid-season to pay bills – the Brits take their sport so seriously but they do things at the same time that seem to fly in the face of what we see as loyalty.
Then Maguire joined Wigan in 2010 and loaned a youngster called Josh Charnley out to Hull KR, all the while dubious about the idea.
Charnley scored five tries in five games for Rovers, returned to Wigan when they had an injury and went on to become a superstar of the British game.
In Monday’s edition of the English paper League Weekly, Maguire suggested that NRL clubs loan players to Super League teams mid-season.
Not only that, “you’d probably be able to do that every now and then with NRL teams.”
That’s right, a loan system within the NRL.
So a let’s say Robbie Farah is stuck behind Damien Cook at Souths – he could be send on loan to Wests Tigers for a month, with the proviso that he does not play against the Rabbitohs.
Would the system work in Australia?
Firstly, the permutations and complications regarding the salary cap would be considerable. Look at the number of teams who’ve won Super League (four) and compare it to the uncertainty in the NRL and you could be led to believe NRL teams have a lot more parity.
That parity might be a fragile thing. Could a player be loaned out maliciously, to ensure he plays against a team that his primary club wants to lose a vital game?
Certain we would need a salary cap that was live in a way we’ve not seen before – almost like a ticker over every club in the NRL showing what their cap is today, yesterday and tomorrow at 3pm – if players are going to be moving around for month-long stints.
Maguire’s idea regarding loaning players to Super League teams seems more plausible – but only if the UK Home Office can be talked around.
Don’t forget, Darcy Lussick was denied entry when he returned from a weekend off earlier this year. Players who have not played at NRL level cannot get UK work visas as a rule so sending young players to England is not practical.
Sending experienced first graders – who’ve played more than half their total matches the previous year at the top level – could conceivably work if the RFL and Super League agreed to it.
Certainly the old days of Andrew Johns and Adrian Morley popping up for a handful of games could return, although the transfer cut-offs have been tightened up a little since those days.
In both scenarios (domestic and international loans), administrative red tape looms large.
But what about in the other direction? Imagine Jackson Hastings being loaned mid-season to an NRL team that’s lost a halfback to two.
It would certainly add another dimension to what is increasingly the oxygen of the game’s social media life – transfer speculation.