The NRL is studying anti-tampering policies in other sports to decide whether coaches should be bound by similar rules as those preventing players from negotiating with rival clubs more than 12 months before their contract expires.
The issue was raised during last week's meeting between the ARL Commission and clubs, and is set to again be thrust into the spotlight regarding the future of Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary following the decision of his son, Nathan, to re-sign with Penrith.
The Clearys have made no secret of their desire to work together and Ivan has been strongly linked with the Panthers after the club's decision to sack coach Anthony Griffin a month before the finals, but he is contracted to the Tigers until the end of the 2020 season.
In contrast, the Tigers were not allowed to negotiate with Nathan, whose contract expires at the end of next season, before November 1 under the NRL's anti-tampering guidelines for players.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said clubs had asked whether a similar rule could be introduced for coaches and officials were now studying the policies of other major sporting bodies.
Rabbitohs investigation not completed
"We will benchmark that against both domestic and international sport and what the rules and regulations are for head coaches, and the way they are contracted and how those contracts work," Greenberg said.
The introduction of a November 1 anti-tampering deadline for coaches would not have prevented Brisbane holding talks with Melbourne's Craig Bellamy earlier this year as he was off contract at the end of the season but the Broncos would be unable to approach South Sydney mentor Anthony Seibold if this rule was in place.
Greenberg said the NRL was also assisting with the formation of a coaches' association, which is being driven by former Canberra, North Queensland and Gold Coast mentor Neil Henry.
"We have been working with Neil for about six months on that, trying to establish a consideration of what a board structure looks like, a governance structure and just trying to put some assistance for what is a very difficult industry," Greenberg said.
"That is not just about head coaches but also the volume of assistant coaches in the game too, and also Intrust Super clubs and all the coaching staff there.
"When coaches lose their jobs and livelihoods it is a big challenge in a small marketplace so there is some professional development and association work that is being done with us and with our help and our investment to help the coaches."
Greenberg discussed the proposals while at St Marys for an announcement on increased at the NSW Female Finals Day for schoolgirls on the growth of participation numbers across the game in 2018.
However, the focus of the press conference was on off-field issues, including:
- Sexting allegations against South Sydney players;
- Ben Barba's impending return to the Cowboys;
- Canterbury's response to a $250,000 fine imposed for their Mad Monday antics;
- The presence of banned former Brisbane official Andrew Gee in the Broncos coach's box during their home final defeat by St George Illawarra;
- The extent of Cronulla's salary cap breach, and;
- Collective bargain negotiations with referees;
Greenberg said he wanted a quick resolution to the investigation into the Rabbitohs but was more concerned that the NRL integrity unit did a thorough job.
"Like a lot of things we deal with, you can never control the timing," Greenberg said.
"What we have to do is allow the process to run its course and I know sometimes that frustrates people. No one wants to get it done quicker than I do but what we want to do is get it right and we want to make sure we get all of the information.
"For us to be able to land at a conclusion and complete the investigation it requires us to try our very hardest to talk to as many people as possible and that’s what the integrity unit are doing at the moment.
"We will pursue a number of different people in this process and that is happening already, it is happening today and I expect that will happen and be done as quickly as possible. We will deal with details and issues in investigations. We won’t make decisions on the run."
Greenberg indicated the NRL would finalise its response to the Bulldogs appeal next week but was unable to provide updates on the investigations into Cronulla or Gee, while negotiations with the referees about pay and conditions were ongoing.
He also said there was no impediment to Barba returning to the NRL from Super League club St Helens after serving a ban for testing positive to cocaine in the days following Cronulla's 2016 grand final win.