Union scouts prey on Toyota Cup By Josh Massoud | August 16, 2008 http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegrap...006066,00.html RUGBY union has seized on a new avenue to decimate the NRL, with cross-code scouts preying on scores of Under-20s players who will be ineligible for next season's Toyota Cup. In a chilling statement for league powerbrokers, ARU high performance manager David Nucifora last night revealed rugby is about to exploit the fact 152 of this year's Toyota Cup stars - almost half the field - will be too old to play in the 2009 National Youth League (NYC). Nucifora confirmed the ARU had anticipated the upcoming flood of unaccommodated junior league stars, and has been watching the talent closely all season. "We're very aware that they can't house everyone once they are over the age limit," he said. "If there's not the succession planning to find them a home in league, then they've got to end up somewhere. "We've been watching lots of talented boys running around in the NYC. "We've got Michael O'Connor to identify talent - he's always watching the NYC with an eye to who would do well in rugby." Players who are too old for the NYC and not offered an NRL contract would normally filter through to the NSW Cup. But that pathway eroded dramatically this week, with news that Manly and Newcastle intend to withdraw their feeder sides from the all-age competition in 2009. Both clubs are expected to link with Queensland Cup sides, meaning more young NSW players will be forced interstate if they wish to continue in rugby league. "The NYC has some very good advantages in that it allows players to compete at a national level at a very young age," Nucifora said. "The obvious negative is that they can't all be given contracts in the NRL. Those that don't will look at options, and given what's happened recently, rugby union is definitely an option." Leading NRL recruitment managers and player agents confirmed sightings of ARU-affiliated scouts at Toyota Cup matches. Bulldogs recruitment head Peter Mulholland has 13 NYC players who turn 21 next year, but can only graduate eight to the club's NSW Cup side. "Rugby is taking a big interest in the players that will fall between the cracks - I know for a fact their people are watching all the NYC games," he said. Player agent Sam Ayoub said today's NYC stars could only expect to earn between $3000 and $8000 in the NSW Cup. "They have to train four days a week, and play on the weekend," Ayoub said. "Some are asking whether it would be better off going back to the workforce or giving rugby union a try." Ayoub slammed the NRL for not implementing "success- ion planning". "They are making the same mistake everyone in rugby league has accused rugby union of doing for the last 10 years," he said. "They are taking away a career pathway for more and more players to reach the top level." Backing Nucifora's warning, Ayoub revealed three Sydney-based rugby clubs had contacted him in the past week to inquire about available league stars. Nucifora said he had no misgivings about cherrypicking players that the rival code had developed. "They've had a taste of high-level football in the NYC and it's natural for them to want to be given the opportunity to continue to do that," he said. "Guys like Berrick Barnes have gone over to league and had a taste and got some development over there. "Now they are back in rugby, and I'd like to think their success might make a few others think about doing the same."