Hugh McGahan: Finger of blame over exodus points at officials

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The announcement earlier in the week from Mark Gasnier has highlighted the continuing trend of players, including high-profile ones, moving offshore to play rugby union or rugby league in Europe.

I am in Australia witnessing first hand the unsettling nature of this issue and no-one, including the NRL hierarchy, ARL, state and club administrators, along with players and agents, know how to reverse the trend. Most are voicing their desire for the NRL to increase revenue streams to pay the players more money.

That can only happen if there is rationalisation of Sydney-based teams with some relocating to other states.

Relocating a team to say, Adelaide again, increases the viewer audience and hence increases the likelihood of more revenue come negotiation time with the current or a future broadcaster.

This is hard to see happening in the very near future and will not stop the current exodus.

There has been talk of salary cap relaxations and not too often do words of real substance come out of the mouth of Willie Mason, but he had a good suggestion that each club's marquee player be exempt from the salary cap.

That would certainly help but does not improve the bank balance nor bring more money into the sport, which is what this whole issue is about.

Whatever small monetary increments they save, it will not be enough to turn the tide immediately. Not unless Bill Gates wants to redeploy his charitable donations to the NRL or another sugar daddy turns up to save the situation will we see all players wanting to stay in the competition or more importantly, in this code.

I will say it again - the Australian Rugby League and NRL along with the administrators of the clubs have only themselves to blame. For decades, they have all focused on improving their own game with emphasis on the Sydney competition and then State of Origin.

Test football has always been second or third in rankings and no matter what anyone says, that is the truth. Their biggest strength has become their greatest adversary - talent. All sports want what they have. The player depth with the skill level they possess today is the envy of world rugby union and European rugby league. Now the Australians know what it is like for other codes and hemispheres to come grabbing their players - as they did many years ago and still do to New Zealand and Pacific Island nations.

If the Australian administrators persevered with their initial plans to take the game to the United States in the mid to late 80s, they may well have set the platform for a more global game than they currently possess. Success in the US would have been the precursor to the rest of the world.

Who knows? The Australians' brashness in thinking that the Yanks do not know what a good sport is unless it kicks them in the teeth was probably the death knell for the sport.

The State of Origin game that was played in Los Angeles in the 80s did not attract the media hype or ratings that the marketing people or administrators wanted to see, so they pulled up sticks and never went back. If they had persevered and their broadcasters got into bed with an American equivalent, then the sport may well have expanded faster and further.

The word is there are more surprises in store for the NRL, with other players set to join the exodus. There are always new players coming through, but how long before the overseas scouts come recruiting?

The next Sonny Bill Williams and Israel Folau will emerge in France or the UK after being spotted at 15 or 16 in the lower grades of Parramatta, Newcastle or Brisbane; all because of the money of the Northern Hemisphere clubs.

- Herald on Sunday

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