To play Devil's advocate here.
The way I understand it is that we got a large funding pot which was spent on Development Officers. The next time, our participation went down, funding was cut, so we got rid of the Development Officers.
Doesn't this suggest that the strategy of throwing a load of money at Development Officers around the country isn;t the right one?
By the way, I am well aware I am being simplistic on this and know little about it, I am commenting as an outsider here, it's an interesting discussion though, keep it up!
An easy way to think about the role of a development officer is to think about the people they influence. Imagine you're a school headmaster or head of PE in a school not in the RL heartlands, you're being pushed to cut costs almost every day. You want to keep playing both codes of rugby but you have the union development officer offering free coaching for both the kids and the PE teachers, kit, competition organisation, links into clubs for even more freebies, etc and nothing but tumbleweed from the rugby league side. Which one would you drop if you had to pick? Imagine you're that headmaster again and you're teaching rugby league on sufferance just because other local schools do so then that rugby league development officer stops showing up, why should you keep your kids playing it if the sport couldn't care about your school?
The other side is that most good development officers are essentially part-time scouts with their bank of contacts into the local, regional and national clubs. Where will the quick phone calls come from for clubs to come have a look at a promising talent at a school or youth game? Why should kids even think about rugby league if they have a union scout come talent sniffing and rugby league not even aware they exist?
The job of development officer has always heavily exploited their love for the game by paying them far less than they deserve for the effort they put in.