ScottWoodward.me Roar Guru By ScottWoodward.me, 31 Oct 2013 It is only a single word, but in 2014 and beyond, that word we see a dramatic change in the National Rugby League competition as we knew it. Already we are seeing “a new breed” of super clubs starting to appear. In the case of the Brisbane Broncos, re-appear. The clubs that will do well in the short to medium term are the ones that have carefully read the NRL “fine print” from the reference centre, under the heading “Salary Cap Breakdown” and “What players can earn outside the salary cap”. Most clubs have focused on the $550k Marquee Player Allowance, but that is a pittance compared to what players can earn from corporate sponsors. The NRL copped a heap of flak from the media when Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau left the NRL for other codes and did not want to lose anymore high profile players, especially the human goldmine, Sonny Bill Williams. The corporate sponsorship rule was re-written and the pivotal word “unlimited” was included. This means in layman’s English that a club can now technically pay each of their top 25 players $5m each, providing they can find enough corporate sponsors who are not associated with the club and who do not use the game’s intellectual property (no club logos, jerseys or emblems) and provided these are pre-approved. Don’t laugh now but they also included the clause: “These agreements may not be negotiated by the club as an incentive for a player to sign a contract, nor can they be guaranteed by the club.” Ok, you can laugh now. Are they serious? Why on earth would Russell Crowe ask Steven Spielberg to give GI 500k for a bit part in a movie if not as an incentive to play for the Rabbitohs? Redfern to Hollywood is a big stretch. Do you remember the NRL’s ex CEO David Gallop stripping the Melbourne Storm of two of their premierships for unauthorised corporate sponsor payments? Well, the new boss, Dave Smith has just it made legal and the Storm is likely to ask for their trophies back. The thinking clubs have embraced the new rule and have put their running shoes on. The weaker, dysfunctional clubs will drop back. The gap will increase and this sea change goes against the original salary cap’s brain child. The New Zealand Warriors are owned by two of the richest guys in their country and they are not used to getting beaten. Billionaire Sir Owen Glenn, the sixth richest man in New Zealand recently purchased a 50% stake in the Warriors from Eric Watson ($250m) and they wasted no time in throwing millions at England’s champion fullback Sam Tomkins to come to Auckland. He is reported to be on a $1m plus a year contract but before an offer could be made the owners had to pay out his current SL contract, believed to be $650k. Coaches are not included in the cap but the Warriors also offered Storm coach $1.5m a season to make the switch. He refused. Tomkins is the best back I have ever seen play the game outside of Australia and his signing is a massive coup for the Warriors and the NRL. The Brisbane Broncos are another club with astute owners, but they will end up with a red hot team more by fluke than good management. Last year’s player of the year, Ben Barba will run out for the Broncos next season because his children have moved there. Kangaroos and Maroons captain Cam Smith will next month announce a move back home after the conclusion on the next season and will state “family” reasons. Anthony Milford, the hottest young player in the game will also be heading to Brisbane either in 2014 or ’15 also with the sympathy line “family reasons”. While he is pondering however, his current club the Raiders have tabled a $1m a year deal for the 19-year-old. If you think that the Broncos will be hard to beat with Barba, Milford and Smith all in the one team well you need to go back and read the fine print again. Did I hear one of the Broncos Board members say that Dally Cherry- Evans is a Brisbane boy? “Let’s get him to say he is home sick and we can give him a million a year.” DCE is under contract to his club Manly who have a dysfunctional board and are one of the poorest clubs in the NRL with many players on back dated contracts that have gradually blown out each season. This will make it very difficult to hang on to the games hottest property, and while the Broncos are happy to strike while the weak are at their knees, this “loophole” in the salary cap is not what the NRL designed it for. This new opportunity was how the Panthers Phil Gould was able to offer Jonathan Thurston $1.2m and while he refused, the Panthers have been pro-active in signing some highly skilled players. They look set for a bright future. No club has a more revered board than the premiers, the Sydney Roosters and putting together corporate sponsorships should just be a matter of hitting speed dial. If you think the Melbourne Storm were a bit stiff in getting sprung for something that is now legal and you think that they are in trouble with their best three players on the wrong side of 30 then you should know this. They have a very astute board who will ensure that they remain an NRL force as they comprehend the rule book better than most. You are naïve if you think they have been idle. The term “unlimited” will mean that the creative boards will ensure that their club always has a bevy of rep players, while the poor and less connected will starve. The importance of juniors will not be a great as the rich clubs will simply just go out and outbid a poor club for their promising junior or rep player. Why would you invest tens of thousands into a junior programme when you can just go to the market and get a player that you know can play first grade? The skills of a Recruitment Manager will be different now. Instead of watching a 15-year-old and after talking to him and his family before forming an opinion if he will make it and is worth a long investment, the major skill now will be to buy proven players who will give the team the required balance to win the competition. These players will likely be between 20 and 25. Watch what the Panthers have been doing. But they must remember that they cannot negotiate their multi-million dollar deal as an incentive to sign a contract…yeah right!