New Broncos boss Dave Donaghy wants the NRL to find a way to stop "vultures" from poaching players that clubs invest years into developing as they move to stave off the threat of Melbourne snatching their only Queensland representative, Xavier Coates.
Donaghy is only three days into starting his long-awaited new role as CEO of the Broncos, he's having to deal with the threat of his former club Melbourne ramping up their a bid to sign the 20-year-old Maroons winger.
Coates is edging ever closer to joining the likes of David Fifita, Sam Walker and Reece Walsh on the growing list of elite talent to leave Red Hill for greater opportunity and salary at rival clubs.
If Coates leaves it could potentially leave the Broncos without a current Maroons star in their squad for the first time in their history.
Even during the Super League war when players aligned with the rebel organisation were not selected, Brisbane still had veteran prop Gavin Allen in the Queensland squad.
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Donaghy said losing young Queensland talent to rival outfits after his club had invested years into their development was an issue the NRL needed to address.
"We are investing a lot in development and nurturing Queensland players," Donaghy said.
"My intent is to come in and work with the recruitment and retention team and I do have experience in that space. I’ve got a firm grasp on the salary cap and understanding it roster management wise.
"But there are all sorts of challenges, they’re not excuses but challenges, in terms of regulation that governs the game.
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"There is no reward for development. There’s an ability for vultures to swoop in and throw ridiculous amounts of money and steal your best talent.
"Is this something that needs to be on the agenda for the NRL? Yes it will be.
"But certainly for me I want to ensure the program is sophisticated enough that we’re identifying those players at a young age and making sure those players stay."
NRL head of football Graham Annesley said the idea to provide salary cap dispensation so clubs can keep more juniors "is always worthy of debate" but there are several complicating factors to consider.
"Some of our clubs don’t have big junior areas, for example, so they have to rely on buying players," Annesley said on Monday.
"And where do those players come from? They come from other clubs. There’s also restrictions about salary caps and how many players you can have in your squad.
"You can’t keep them all, you can’t pay for them all. It’s always worthy of debate and there are always options that perhaps haven’t been considered in the past or different ways of structuring these things.
You can’t keep them all, you can’t pay for them all.Graham Annesley
"But ultimately, that’s not determined by the NRL football department. We would provide information to the [ARL] Commission, but that’s a policy decision and that’s a decision that would have to be dealt with by the Commission."
Annesley added that as far as he was aware the Commission hasn’t discussed the issue in recent times.
Donaghy believed the Broncos system was the best fit for Coates, a former Palm Beach Currumbin High School star, to develop his career and hoped he would remain in Brisbane under the new coaching program implemented by Kevin Walters.
"He is a wonderful young man and he is a wonderful player," Donaghy said.
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"He is a great athlete and I think the program here can certainly make him a better athlete as well, he has a lot of upside which is really exciting.
"He is from this part of Queensland and I think we can certainly provide him with the right tools and environment to be the best possible football player he can be."
Donaghy oversaw Melbourne’s salary cap as the Storm underwent a generational transition from boasting three of the best players in the league – Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk – to now boasting a spine that remains the envy of the NRL in Ryan Papenhuyzen, Cameron Munster, Jahrome Hughes and Harry Grant.
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But the new Broncos boss doesn’t believe the recruitment and retention policy used in Melbourne would necessarily fix Brisbane’s situation.
The Broncos have released at least half a dozen players in the past three seasons midway through their contracts to ease salary cap pressures.
"I think it’s fraught with danger to think we can pick up a plan from somewhere else and put it in another organisation, it just doesn’t work," he said.
"The Storm has their own way, the Broncos have their own way, Souths, Cowboys, everyone has their own style and own culture in their organisation.
"We need to do things our way."
Donaghy insisted Walters would receive the support and resources to make rebuild Brisbane, but repeatedly dodged the question of whether his initial two-year deal was enough security to get the job done or whether he needed more time to achieve his plan.
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"The priority with me is to work with Kevvie in the short term and long term," Donaghy said.
"I know his aspiration is to be here for the long term.
"I understand there are high expectations and we are probably in the development phase at the moment but certainly for us we’re putting pieces in place to establish long term success is what we’re working towards."