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Opinion

Is a transfer window the solution to the NRL’s player contract fiasco?

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Roar Rookie
12th December, 2019
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The lack of understanding of the operation and workings of player negotiations is fast becoming one of the major issues in the NRL.

Perhaps modelling and adapting a transfer window system similar to the football world could decrease the rising number of players breaking their contracts early.

Here’s how it may work.

The first thing to consider is when the transfer window open and close?

Currently negotiations with players who have one year remaining on their contracts begins on the first of November. This could be the day the transfer window opens, which would then last until the 23rd of February, allowing clubs 12 weeks to make moves on rival players who would join their side immediately.

A second window would lead to mid-season swaps, therefore to avoid this the only other negotiations that would be allowed to occur would be pre-contract agreements for the following season, with players who have less than a year to run on their deal the only one’s clubs could target.

To put this into an example, Latrell Mitchell – who has one year remaining at the Sydney Roosters – would be able to be signed by another club for 2020 if the deal is completed before the 23rd of February.

After the 23rd, Mitchell would only be allowed to be signed on a pre-contract agreement meaning he would move clubs at the end of the 2020 season.

Clubs would be able to negotiate with their current players freely throughout the season, therefore being permitted to offer contract extensions at any time.

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The next aspect to think about is club compensation for losing a player. If a player was signed in the transfer window, a transfer fee or player swap would need to be agreed upon by the two clubs involved.

To model this aspect off of a football model would not be feasible due to the high transfer fees paid.

However, a transfer fee could be close to the players market value. For example, this off-season we witnessed the messy departure of Ryan Matterson who still had two years on his deal at the Wests Tigers.

The Parramatta Eels didn’t have to pay compensation to the Tigers, who wanted to remove Matterson sooner rather than later from the squad. In the transfer model, the Wests Tigers could have received an offer around $500k, leaving them in a position to find a replacement for a similar transfer fee.

Ryan Matterson of the Tigers

Ryan Matterson playing for the Tigers (AAP Image/Steve Christo)

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It’s also important to look at the amount of money club receive outside of the salary cap as to how much extra they would be given to use for transfers.

In the below table, the current salary cap allocations are listed, potentially $3 million per club could be separated from the club grants the year a transfer window is implemented, to be used strictly for transfers.

Reported salary cap allocation per club

Year Salary Cap Minimum Wage Club Grant
2022 $10M $120,000 $13M
2021 $9.9M $115,000 $13M
2020 $9.8M $110,000 $13M
2019 $9.6M $105,000 $13M
2018 $9.4M $100,000 $13M
2017 $7.0M $80,000 $7.2M
2016 $6.8M $80,000 $7.1M
2015 $6.55M $80,000 $7.1M
2014 $6.3M $80,000 $7.1M
2013 $5.85M $80,000 $7.1M

This would be the only time clubs are strictly given money for transfers. Clubs would need to make smart deals in which they could maintain their salary cap.

This would eliminate clubs spending big and seeing massive overhauls to rosters during the off-season.

This could be a solid base which could be adapted into the NRL, minimising messy player movements, player agents ruling contracts and allowing for clubs to be compensated for players who are poached before their contracts end.