NRL chief Andrew Abdo insists any salary cap exemption aimed at attracting players from rival codes would be implemented fairly, as league bosses consider potential incentives for imminent raid on rugby.
- The NRL says it is ready to attract players from other codes to rugby league
- Earlier in the year, Rugby Australia aggressively targeted several NRL players for code switching.
- New Rugby Australia boss Phil Waugh says the Wallabies’ World Cup horror has left some players disillusioned.
The ARL committee is expected to discuss potential options for exemptions at next month’s meeting, with Rugby Australia executives admitting a horror World Cup has left them vulnerable.
In a dramatic 2023, Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii was successfully lured back to the 15-a-side game, Eddie Jones came and went as Wallabies coach, and Cameron Murray opted to stay in rugby league .
But there is potential for a response from the NRL.
The Sydney Roosters are reportedly in talks with Wallabies winger Mark Nawaqanitawase, while NSW Waratahs teenager Max Jorgensen has long been an NRL target.
“We want the best athletes to play our sport, whether it’s the men’s or women’s competition,” Abdo said.
“Growth is on our agenda, so while our primary focus is on developing rugby league talent through our own channels, we are also open to attraction and, potentially in some cases, return to the league of other codes.
“Could salary cap relief potentially be used? Yes.
“It is an absolute possibility that the commission will examine, and study in due course.”
Getting things done, while appeasing all 17 clubs with a level playing field, is the NRL’s biggest challenge.
Salary cap exemptions are already in place for developed and veteran players, with up to 10 percent of their salaries cleared from the cap, up to a maximum of $300,000 per club per year.
A similar system could potentially be put in place for players signed from rival codes.
“Any changes the commission might make to this policy will need to be carefully considered, and there will be parameters and caps,” Abdo said.
“It won’t be a free-for-all.
“It will be tricky and it will be about ensuring that there is an opportunity for all clubs, on an equal footing, to have one or two talented players who they will potentially recruit from other codes worldwide.
“This will be carefully considered though, as we want to make sure we are focused on our pathways, and we also want to maintain a competitive balance.”
Abdo’s comments come as Rugby Australia chief executive Phil Waugh admits his sick code is needed to regain players’ confidence following the Wallabies’ disastrous World Cup group stage exit.
“We talk about building trust and bonding. We’ve lost a lot of trust with the playing group as well,” Waugh said Tuesday.
“The experience they had this year with the Wallabies at the World Cup, compared to what they would have envisioned before the World Cup, could have been very different.
“So it’s very important for us to build a system that they can participate in.
“Right now, where we are in the cycle with the Lions (British and Irish) and the home World Cup (looming in 2025 and 2027 respectively), this is the perfect opportunity for us to rebuild the game.
“But we have to build the confidence of the players.”
Meanwhile, Abdo said the ARL Commission would determine the next steps for the league’s expansion in the coming months.
A Papua New Guinea team based in Cairns are favorites to be the 18th team in the NRL, as early as 2027.
“We have not yet determined when the expansion will take place,” Abdo said.
“More preparation is better. You want players who have signed multi-year contracts to have the opportunity to transition to a new team.
“You also want established courses, high performance and a stable, strong environment with the right staff for as long as possible.”
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