Loans – NRL 2021: Player loans, transfer window contract reviews planned
The NRL’s planned exploration of loan systems, trade periods and transfer windows in a review of player contracts can “only be a good thing” in the eyes of respected Storm prop Christian Welch.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo and his executive will lead a review into the contracting system in the first half of 2021 as part of the revised C(BA) agreement struck with the RLPA this week.
Among items on the agenda will be the oft-touted prospect of a trade period or window being introduced in future seasons, as well as the potential for short-term player loans between clubs.
Whereas the RLPA has long opposed the concept of trade windows, the loan system that saw the Warriors borrow players on one-month stints last year was largely viewed as a success across the game.
The likes of Poasa Fa’amausili, Jack Hetherington, George Jennings and Daniel Alvaro all found game time in short-term loans that benefited both the Warriors and their respective clubs, with feedback on the system from veteran recruitment manager Peter O’Sullivan provided to the NRL last year.
A similar loan system has been used for several years in the UK’s Super League and has been previously backed by leading coaches Trent Robinson and Ivan Cleary.
Welch too is a fan, and as one of Melbourne’s RLPA club delegates welcomed the review into the contracting system given it is an area of the game that generates enormous interest, but also controversy.
“I think a loan system would be really beneficial,” Welch told NRL.com.
“There’s a lot of talent in the NRL but only 17 players able to get picked [for each club] each week.
“There’s benefits for the host club, there’s benefits for the players. You can see those guys that played for the Warriors this year, they were able to make genuine contributions under that special system, there’s real potential there for both clubs involved and the players.
“I’d like to see something come in properly around that practice.
“Obviously it’s different to other sports with more money. Moving a player on the minimum wage of around $80,000, uprooting their whole life and family for a couple of months might not add up.
“I’m sure there’s things that need to be worked out. But I think that’s the most exciting thing because we’re talking more talent in the game.”
The NRL’s planned contract review will include input from the players union, clubs and agents among other stakeholders.
As well as potentially large-scale moves that would re-shape the transfer market, the June 30 mid-season transfer date, November 1 free agency date and rules around breaking contracts are also likely to be looked at.
The ARL Commission discussed the concept of prohibiting players breaking a contract to sign for more money at a rival club late last year, following high profile, messy disputes involving Josh Aloiai and Jason Saab.
As part of the revised C(BA) that will see players take a 6% pay cut over 2021 and 2022, the NRL’s top 30 minimum wage will remain at $77,000 this season and $80,000 next year, with those lower tier players shielded from the salary cuts.
Welch believes conversations and commentary around player releases is often skewed against players.
The Queensland Origin prop, who holds a commerce degree and is also studying for an M(BA), points to the far more frequent instances of a player being moved on from a club rather than the individual agitating for a release.
In any case, Welch welcomes a wider discussion on the contract system and potential reform and improvements.
“Only good things are going to come out of sitting down at the table with all the stakeholders,” Welch said.
“That’s players, clubs, player managers, the NRL and who else should be sitting there as well is your diehard fans. They need a voice at the table as well because it’s their game as much as everyone else’s.
“We should always be looking to improve the contracting model, hopefully it’s not a zero-sum gain where one stakeholder wins and others have to give up some rights.
“I struggle with some of the commentary around player contracts sometimes… it can be a one-way street where players are the bad guy, always asking for more money.
“There’s examples of that but I’m well aware of instances where it’s the opposite, where players get told to move on and that they don’t have a future and it’s presented quite differently.
“I think there’s some improvements there that can be discussed running into the next C(BA) and there’s ways to take the game forward.”