Richie Barnett on league

Opinion and analysis from former Kiwis captain Richie Barnett

Richie Barnett: NRL can't afford Folau salaries

The AFL scouts were watching Israel Folau closely. Photo / Getty Images
The AFL scouts were watching Israel Folau closely. Photo / Getty Images

It's about time some NRL players got real. When it comes to their perception of their value, plenty of players have got their heads up their own backsides.

You can't blame Israel Folau for taking the huge money on offer from AFL. He has set himself up for life. And it's a pretty shrewd strategy of the AFL clubs that poached him and Karmichael Hunt to use a couple of big-name NRL players to boost their profiles. Whether those guys will actually be any good hardly matters and, from a league point of view, who cares?

The point is that Folau and Hunt are pretty much one-offs. If the average NRL player thinks they can earn that sort of money they are dreaming.

It really annoys me when players use the AFL and European rugby to try to boost their value. The NRL is a completely different market.

Most NRL clubs are struggling to break even just paying salaries at the present level. There is no way they can compete with the sort of the money offered to Folau.

Not even close. The salary cap is irrelevant. The game would go broke trying to match that kind of money.

A lot of players just don't seem to understand the financial constraints facing their clubs. They don't care, they just say "give us more". Maybe if the clubs put their financials in front of these guys they'd understand that you really can't get blood out of a stone.

Sure, some players will leave, but it's not really the huge deal it gets made out to be. League exists in an open market these days. Players like Folau and Hunt leave, but others like Johnathan Thurston, Freddy Fittler and Andrew Johns don't. There are concessions and inducements, like third-party deals, to help keep superstar players in the game for their whole careers.

But there's no way you'll keep them all. When a player like Folau gets that sort of money thrown at them you just have to accept it and move on.

Plenty who do leave come back - like Timana Tahu, Matt Rogers, Wendell Sailor, Lote Tuqiri and hopefully Mark Gasnier.

There are always plenty of brilliant young players coming through to take the places of those who do leave. Look around the NRL this year and you'll see plenty of players, like Penrith's Lachlan Coote, who are the superstars of the not-too-distant future.

The Warriors sure have their work cut out for them on Sunday. Having Manu, Lucky and Maloney back is a real bonus, but the Dragons are still a huge challenge. They test their opponents in every facet of the game for every minute of the game. To have any chance the Warriors will need to be on their game 100 per cent of the time. If they are out even a small margin they will get towelled. If you don't stay in the arm wrestle they will wear you down and their forwards will roll over the top of you and pile on the points.

- NZ Herald

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