Game strategy to protect young stars
The recent tragedies involving young rugby league players played an important role in the NRL's whole of game strategy announced on Tuesday.
Drawing from a focus point of the discussion paper 'Welfare Begins at Home', Head of Game Strategy and Development Shane Richardson said the importance of the issue became apparent as he fleshed out the strategy.
The Platinum reserve grade competition proposed by the NRL will see the abolishment of the National Youth Cup, with young players not able to make their NRL debuts until their 19th year from 2018.
"We did a detailed study on these kids and what happened to them," Richardson said.
"We had a long look and worked with people internally here [at the NRL] about what it's done to families and otherwise.
"When you go to New Zealand and talk to NZRL and the districts and speak to some of the tragedies which have happened for them, for every kid who gets a start there are another 10 which aren't as nice as that one.
"This isn't something Shane Richardson has anecdotally pulled out; it's something we have done a lot of research on."
Also outlined in the strategy is the fact players will not be paid before their 19th year of living, and cannot have a player manager until they're 17.
Each club can then only have three rookies at any one time – on fixed two year, $60,000 contracts – to alleviate the pressures involved with our young stars currently.
"From a welfare point of view I think 18 onwards in terms of the medical information we have gathered says it's an appropriate age," Richardson said.
"What we have had to do here is make a decision on the whole of the game, and what's best for all the players and clubs. That's what we've tried to do, but it hasn't been a major mute point from any of the stakeholders."
Richardson went on to outline a two week open trade window in October for the game's rookie stars, but didn't like the chances of there being a rookie draft in the NRL in the near future.
"We have a fractured system in rugby league, it's not a centralised system that the AFL has," Richardson said.
"There are differences to Queensland, NSW and Country Rugby League, there's a lot of investment from leagues clubs who you don't want to scare away – we want further investment, there's no need to take it away.
"The two week window is for the clubs to work out their rookie contracts. That's not a draft, you can come from anywhere as a rookie.
"If you're a rookie at South Sydney and Brisbane decides they want you and you want to go to Brisbane then you can go there – there's no restriction on you going anywhere.
"If you're a halfback in Newcastle and Penrith make you an offer – which has to be the same offer too – you can go."