Water Cooler: Can we afford to raise the salary cap?

Is it worth the risk?<br><br>That’s the question that everyone should be asking today amid reports that new Super 15 franchise, the Melbourne Rebels, are throwing cash at Queensland stars Billy Slater and Israel Folau.<br><br>The salary cap scandal that has engulfed the NRL over the past four days has far wider implications than just the Storm’s own financials.<br><br>While most agree that the cap has been crucial in producing an even competition and, more importantly, keeping some clubs afloat, the vultures are circling.<br><br>So is it worth it?<br><br>Well, according to South Sydney boss Shane Richardson, yes it is.<br><br>“When you’re losing $30 million a year, you can’t just keep paying money out,” Richardson tells NRL.com.<br><br>“This constant rubbish that we should just open up the salary cap and allow everything to go forward is just that – nonsensical, childish rubbish – because the game just can’t afford to do it.<br><br>“So when that is your starting point you need a salary cap and at some stage you may have to lose players.<br><br>“You never want to, you don’t want to lose stars to the game, but the reality is that you either have a salary cap or you don’t.”<br><br>By far the most vocal opponent of the salary cap – in its present form at least – is former Sydney Roosters and NSW coach Phil Gould, who has been relentless in his attacks on the NRL since the Storm’s cap scandal broke.<br><br>Gould’s criticisms have centred around player wages, which he believes don’t reflect their status and workload, and this very real threat of losing players to the game.<br><br>Richardson says there is no doubt the players deserve more money but insists clubs can’t afford to pay it.<br><br>“I’d like to ask Phil Gould a question: How in the world do you pay for it?<br><br>“Even his club, which had a famous leagues club that could keep throwing money at them, is cutting back to try and meet costs because the fake security of poker machines isn’t there to support it.<br><br>“It may not be sexy to talk about it but that’s the reality and it is why the salary cap must be there.<br><br>“Should players be paid more? Bloody oath they should! But we need to do so by allowing them to increase their revenue from outside of the game.”<br><br>However, Bulldogs boss Todd Greenberg believes that the loss of Karmichael Hunt to AFL this year and the prospect of losing more should serve as a warning to the NRL.<br><br>“As a starting rule we want to keep all of the best elite talent in the game of rugby league but we’re also mindful of the reasons behind having a salary cap and the limitations our game has by way of finance.<br><br>“Ultimately the result here is that we need more money in the game to ensure that we can retain the best quality talent at all times.”<br><br>Asked if it was a case of the NRL counting the days until the next television rights deal – which is expected to bring in as much as $1 billion (the current deal is worth $500 million over six years from 2007-2012 – was done, Greenberg said: “Sure, there is no doubt that deal is very important so that we do have more money in the game but until we get to that time we have to make sure we only spend what we can afford.”<br><br>North of the border, the Cowboys are facing a similar dilemma as they try to retain the services of captain Johnathan Thurston. The Australian Test halfback is another believed to have fielded big-money offers from rugby union clubs both here and overseas, but Cowboys chief executive Peter Parr believes it is time clubs stopped worrying.<br><br>“I’ve been fighting against [the threat] for a few months now trying to do Johnathan’s contract but I’ve come to the conclusion that you’ve just got to accept that life is the way it is,” Parr says.<br>“The salary cap exists for very good reasons and we can only afford to pay what we can afford to pay.<br><br>“What the answer is I don’t know because increasing the salary cap isn’t the answer.<br><br>“The only way we could afford a salary cap increase at this club is if the annual grant was to go up, too.<br><br>“So at the end of the day you just have to do your very best to keep your most talented players in the game and if that’s not good enough, at least we can look ourselves in the mirror and say we did everything possible under the circumstances.”