By SCOTT WOODWARD
RUGBY League cannot afford to lose 12 months of the elite pathways competitions – are the ingredients that make up the NRL and Super League competitions.
They are the players of the future.
In NSW, these competitions include the Canterbury Cup (NSW Cup), Jersey Flegg (under 20s), SG Ball (under 18s) and Harold Matthews (uncer 16s), while Queensland have the Intrust Super Cup (Queensland Cup), Colts (uncer 20s), Meninga Cup (under 18s).
All these competitions have been wiped from the 2020 calendar, and so has the young talent, many of whom were preparing mentally and physically for promotion in 2021 to a higher and “tougher” grade.
The hardest challenge will be the players in the under 20s comps who will now be asked to play for the first time against grown men. This, after coming from an under 18s comp and missing the bulk of their under 20s pathway grounding.
Unlike the NRL players who are unsure when they will be required back on the park, we have certainty that all elite pathways have been abandoned for this season. For the well-being of the young players, the junior competitions should all have the “lost 12 months” added to their eligibility, especially for under 20s players.
Under 16s become under 17s
Under 18s become under 19s
Under 20s become under 21s
The reality, laid bare by the CoronaVirus ramifications, is that the Elite Pathways are a drain on clubs finances and became one of the first in front of the firing squad.
Country Rugby League has been in decline for years and this highly valuable section of the game will also have to start from scratch next season.
Sadly, women’s rugby league, a major growth sector, has also been told “don’t come Monday”.
The game of rugby league itself will always survive whatever is thrown at it – the product is simply too good – and of all the hundreds of programs on cable TV, it reigns supreme holding the highest rating tag.
Clubland are clearly in turmoil as they reaffirm their assets, cash and costs, but also have no certainty what the 2021 competition will look like in terms of number of teams and what the salary cap will be.
Previously they have had to recruit 30 players in a salary cap of $9.6m (average per player, $320k), but 2021 may be reduced to around $7.5m (average per player 250k) or even $6m (200k per player).
Normally with no play you would think that clubs could focus on identifying future talent and negotiate with the player agents – but not knowing the future salary cap and what agreed discount the players will settle on make any conversation impractical.
Incredibly the Knights still announced a three0year $2.1 million deal with Dragon Tyson Frizell. Rightly, the NRL have refused to register that deal.
Each day we look at the CV curve in the hope that it will plateau and then drop. It is only then that our great game can rise again.
And it will!