Amidst all of the romance and story surrounding Sam Burgess’ incredible farewell to Rugby League last week, there was one particular story which may have evaded your attention.
It came via NRL chief executive David Smith, who revealed to Australian media (story here) that he would seriously consider using his “exceptional powers” to use the code’s resources and bring Burgess back to the NRL in 2016.
Under new changes made by the NRL earlier this year, the game’s governing body in Australia can use their own money to help clubs retain and sign star talent – of which Burgess falls very much into the category of.
Smith said: “I’ve got exceptional power, which I can use if I think it’s for the greater good of the game. If there is any player that meets that criteria I would absolutely use it and there’s no doubt for me that Sam Burgess is a phenomenon.”
For Rugby League lovers, this is great news. It means that, despite there being stringent salary cap rulings in place, the NRL will help out as much as possible to ensure it doesn’t lose top talent to the two other big codes in Australia – rugby union and AFL.
So, with that in mind, could the RFL be tempted to do the same? After all, Rugby League has certainly lost its fair share of talent to union in the lats 15 years – with notable names like Kyle Eastmond (right), Andy Farrell and even Joel Tomkins all crossing the great divide.
There are obvious pros and cons to the idea – obviously some players will cross to a different code irrespective of money and salary, more with the thinking that they want to test themselves in another code.
But it is intriguing that the NRL openly admit the “exceptional powers” that are in place could also lure new talent over to RL, as well as keeping hold of what we have got.
If such a ruling was brought in over here, could it be a turning point in convincing union’s top stars into the 13-man code? There are a wealth of stars in the 15-man code that RL fans would love to see in Super League, but has money always been a stumbling block in getting them over?
Of course, there is another big issue involved in such a change to the salary cap. If one club was given extra help from the game to bring a top union star over, surely every club would then expect the same treatment? We won’t know whether that turns out to be the case until the NRL actually exercise their powers to bring a big name in – perhaps Sam Burgess will be the first example in time for 2016.
Another big stumbling block of such a change happening over here is the crux of the whole issue – money. The NRL have openly said they will use the “code’s resources” to help attract and retain talent, but Rugby League is very much a major sport over in Australia. Whether the RFL have the resources to match bodies like the RFU is a whole other matter.
It would be a bold, brave move by the RFL if they were ever to even consider bringing in such a ruling. However, there can be little doubting that if it is a change that turns out to work in Australia, and more talent comes into the game Down Under, then the RFL should surely look at trialling it themselves.