Interesting discussion from Denton - he has a point! Something's off-key in the NRL choir July 24, 2005 The Sun-Herald Page Tools * Email to a friend * Printer format * * Clubs are having a lend of the NRL by treating the salary cap with contempt, Andrew Denton writes. Let me get straight to the point: I cannot see how the Roosters are under the salary cap and I don't believe the game is benefiting from their actions. Proof? I don't have any. But it wouldn't take the cast of Law And Order: Forensic Accountants to work out that something is off-key in the NRL choir. Grab a pen and paper and let's look at the Roosters squad for 2005. Remember, the salary cap is $3.3 million and it's for 25 players. Recently published figures suggest representative players Jason Cayless and Michael Crocker are paid $200,000 and $190,000 respectively. Former rep players Luke Ricketson and Chris Walker receive $150,000 and $200,000. Stuart Webb ($80,000) and Ned Catic ($75,000) make do on more modest sums. Also mentioned was Brett Firman, one of three big signings last year, with Amos Roberts and Joel Monaghan. Firman, it seems, was on a $200,000 deal. How much has been spent so far? $1.095m. $2.20m to spare. Those with good memories will remember that Roberts signed on for $250,000. Let's be conservative and say that Monaghan, an equally sought-after player, came for Firman's price of $200,000. AdvertisementAdvertisement Taking Firman as the benchmark (and, remember, he wasn't even a regular first-grader, much less a rep player), it should be safe to assume that current and former rep players Chris Flannery, Ryan Cross and Brett Finch aren't playing for less. But we're being charitable here. Let's say they're all happy to take a cut so they can play with Ricky and put them each at $190,000. Running total: $2.115m. Still under the $3.3m cap. Now the elite players - those who would cause a frenzy if they went on to the open market: Adrian Morley, Craig Wing, Craig Fitzgibbon and Anthony Minichiello. Clearly, none is playing for $200,000. Roberts is on $250,000 - and he's not at their level - so common sense suggests they're on more. Let's put them on $275,000 each, except for Morley (an Englishman who will rightly expect to be compensated for the weak Australian dollar). We'll give him $300,000 - a steal when you consider the Roosters signed Bulldogs fringe player player Charlie Tonga during the week for $150,000 a year. Cost to date: $3.240m. Looking shaky. But the cap fits 25 players, each of whom must be paid a minimum $40,000. So far, we've accounted for 16. Who's left? The hottest young prop in the game, Anthony Tupou, is listed under the cap at $150,000. Then there's Penrith import Richard Fa'aoso, Iosia Soliola (who Ricky says is the next big thing) and prolific junior Jamie Soward. What the hell, give them all the play-with-Ricky rate of $40,000, along with the other five needed to get us to 25. Grand total? $3.710m. Oops. Now I know what you're saying. The NRL has registered contracts. It says everything's OK. Where's your proof? Of course, I have none. And I'm sure all the contracts, as registered, add up. But do I believe that they tell the whole story? Or that the salary cap is working? No. And I don't think many fair-thinking fans do either. We're being treated like mushrooms - fed you know what and kept in the dark. Take the claim that Brad Fittler was on $350,000 a year. A legend of the game and he could get only $150,000 more than Firman? Oh please. Then I read that Braith Anasta has passed up a $3m deal with Souths to sign a $900,000 one with the Roosters, and that Ashley Harrison has dropped $450,000 over three years to play with Ricky. And no one bats an eyelid? Ricky Stuart is a great coach, but for players to take such huge discounts in the best earning years of their short careers? Seems unlikely. Other clubs sacrifice and shed profile players to develop new ones, but not the Roosters. They just sign better ones. What is the benefit to rugby league of having some teams forever weak and another always strong? Shouldn't all rugby league fans start the season genuinely believing their team might make the eight, might even win the comp? And if that were true, if we had a level playing field, wouldn't that make for a great competition? Stop me before I go mad. Let's just say the Roosters really are under the cap. Let's say the system is operating as it should be, which is what the NRL claims. That leaves only one question: is it working? Here's what the NRL website says about the salary cap: The primary function of the salary cap is "to assist in spreading the playing talent so that a few rich clubs cannot simply out-bid poorer teams for all the best players. The NRL believes that if a few clubs were able to spend unlimited funds in such a way, it would both reduce the attraction of games to fans, due to an uneven competition, and drive some clubs out of the competition". I may not be able to prove how. I may not be able to prove who. And neither, perhaps, for all its best efforts, can the NRL. But when Anasta and Harrison run on with the all-star Roosters against Souths next year, I'll be able to prove this much: the system is broke, the whole town knows it, and it's time to fix it. Andrew Denton, host of ABC TV's Enough Rope, is a lifelong rugby league fan and South Sydney supporter.