Newcastle legend Danny Buderus says that Jack Bird's decision to move to Brisbane from the 2018 season is further proof that the distribution of talent is in need of a dramatic overhaul if the NRL is to be truly called a level playing field.
An Illawarra junior who joined the Sharks in 2015, Bird was being courted by the Knights to provide a crucial pillar in their rebuild but sensationally chose instead to sign with the Broncos, prompting widespread speculation as to how he will fit into a Broncos team already boasting Darius Boyd, Anthony Milford and James Roberts in their backline.
The introduction of a player draft has been discussed and dismissed many times in the past but in his column for Big League this week Buderus is adamant that there needs to be change in order to spread the talent more evenly.
"The solution for distributing the talent pool could be a draft, a trade window or tweaking the salary cap. It's the only way," Buderus writes in the Round 8 issue of Big League.
"The fans are our biggest stakeholders, and while it would be great to be a Broncos fan with Jack Bird coming to your club, if you're a Sharks fan it's a different story. This churn of players affects the marketplace, and fans and sponsors both want a cohesive team they can engage with.
"Clubs that don't go through the churn in important positions are successful almost every season.
"Getting a system where young players are developed to win their clubs a title will result in better fan engagement.
"It would be an improvement on the current reward clubs get for developing talent, which is not much."
Given the recent broadcast rights deals there has never been more money in the game for players than there is now which is leading to a more fluid player market than ever before.
Rosters can be changed dramatically in the space of two seasons which is why Buderus believes there needs to be greater rewards for those clubs that are able to develop from within.
"In the end Jack Bird has gone for the guarantee of a quality roster, a nice earn and a new playing position – and who could blame him?" Buderus says.
"Developing players of this potential is the way the Knights have always survived and always will, but I wonder if the game supports this model.
"The pillars are slowly being put in place for the Knights to attract players, but is the game doing enough to help clubs that are rebuilding while fans are watching players learn their trade in first grade?
"At the top end of the table the NRL has never had a back-to-back champion – which is amazing – but can we go into every season saying every club can win it?
"That would be the NRL's dream, but can it be achieved under this current system?
"A lot of clubs can make the top eight, but how many have everything covered and can win a premiership?"
The Round 8 issue of Big League is a special Anzac Round edition featuring a story on war veteran Athol Stewart who returned to play for Newtown along with stories on Suaia Matagi, Jayden Brailey and the top eight advertising campaigns in rugby league history. On sale now at newsagents, supermarkets, at the ground and via www.magsonline.com.au/big-league.