Is rugby league’s salary cap about to face its biggest
challenge? Meanwhile, Wallabies coach, Eddie Jones continues to makes
gags at rugby league’s expense, and former league star Wendell Sailor
continues to make a fool of himself.

Rugby league’s salary cap

The
infamous “salary cap” imposed by the National Rugby League on the 15
NRL Clubs may be about to face its most serious challenge.

For
those who may not know, the NRL imposes a “cap” on the total salary and
related benefits that can be paid to players by each club. The purpose
of the cap is to ensure that club’s don’t spend beyond their means,
and, supposedly, to “even up” the competition.

Its
legality, under restraint of trade laws etc has never been tested, and,
one suspects, any test before the courts would put the salary cap laws,
or aspects of them, at risk. But one also suspects that no club, or
player, is yet prepared to challenge it.

This morning I
have heard reports that the New Zealand Rugby Union is about to make a
massive offer to the Canterbury Bulldogs star player, Sonny Bill
Williams. Apparently the NZRU want Williams to be a key part of the All
Blacks push to win the 2007 World Cup.

If the reports are
true, then the National Rugby League will rightly come under enormous
pressure to ensure the most exciting young player in rugby league today
is not lost to the other rugby code.

Rugby union is, of
course, not bound by rugby league’s salary cap and that’s why it has
been able to make “offers they can’t refuse” to league players like
Lote Tiquiri and Matt Rogers and to make serious approaches to Andrew
Johns, and who knows who else!

If the NZRU is serious about
making a massive offer, then it can be reasonably confident Williams
and his Manager, Gavin Orr, will take it very seriously.

Not
only is Williams NZ-born, he has deliberately opted to play for the
Kiwis in rugby league international matches, thereby ruling himself out
of state-of-origin consideration. He is a highly marketable “product”
in NZ as well as Australia.

The only way the Canterbury
Bulldogs, or any other NRL Club, could match a massive union bid would
be with NRL assistance AND a significant salary cap concession.

The
NRL offers various concessions for the long service by players who have
been selected to represent their state, and Australia. So there is a
“precedent”.

But it will be a distraction the NRL will be
very unhappy about. If the NRL intervenes to stop one star being
poached by the NRL, where will be the line be drawn?

What
will happen when the ARU, for example, makes an offer to a high profile
and successful league player coming off contract? And, despite what
Eddie Jones may say, it is bound to happen.

Sonny Bill
Williams has been getting saturation coverage over the weekend with
“telephone number” figures about his worth being reported in Sydney and
Brisbane papers.

Williams might find out sooner than even
he had expected just how much he is really worth – and just how much
rugby league “values” his services.

As the saying goes – watch this space!

Rugby league vs rugby union

To
the disappointment of some readers I have generally resisted replying
to the pot shots coaches, players and commentators from other codes
take at rugby league from time to time.

I have done so because our game is big enough, and certainly resilient enough, to stand on its own merits.

But
with both the league, union and rules seasons about to start, it really
is time certain rugby union types got a life and focused on the
challenges and problems facing their own code and leave rugby league to
our own!

I have always regarded the Wallabies coach, Eddie
Jones, as union’s answer to the English soccer coach, Sven Goran
Erikssen. He says a lot but says very little! And what he says he says
ponderously.

So it is hardly a surprise that Jones’s “gag”
at a testimonial for the NSW cricketer, Richard Chee Quee, about the
rising start of rugby league, Sonny Bill Williams, has comprehensively
backfired.

Jones told the dinner – and he must have been
the guest speaker for “ethnic reasons” which is fair enough – that
Williams was too small to play number eight for the Wallabies and too
slow for outside flanker!

Having been properly taken to task for such a piece of codswallop, Jones has now said it was only a joke!

I
just wish he was serious, because that would mean rugby union would
keep its hands off Williams, and spend its television-driven lucre on
developing its own international players, and not poaching them from
rugby league.

And in return, I am sure rugby league will sign a pledge not to poach any of the current or potential Wallabies!

There
have been times when I have thought rugby might present the biggest
challenge of all to rugby league, but the more times I watch the
Jones-coached Wallabies in “action” the more certain I am sure I have
nothing to worry about.

Get a new gag writer, Eddie! And
while you are at it buy a very large double gag for one of your
“stars”, the ex- rugby league player, Wendell Sailor.

When
the ARU poached Wendell from rugby league a few years back, many league
supporters, if not most league supporters, breathed a heavy sight of
relief.

But ever since he has used his media columns and
interviews to make snide and quite unnecessary “digs” at the game that
gave him plenty and certainly gave him the opportunity to get a nice
fat ARU contract.

The latest came over the weekend when he
said he was “not old enough” to make a return to rugby league. Well I
hope Jeff Miller and the Reds administration would “release” Wendell
for a one match return to rugby league in round 9 of the premiership
when the Broncos meet the Bulldogs – and then we will see whether or
not Sonny Bill Williams is too small, or too slow!

The most
disappointing aspects of Sailor’s attitude is that when he was a league
star his off field misbehaviour left much to be desired, yet he was
extended extraordinary, and, in my view, excessive, tolerance by his
coach, his club, and by league fans.

That tolerance has constantly been “repaid” with pathetic digs at the game that gave him more breaks than he deserved.

When
he is not having little digs at rugby league, he is sucking up in the
most shameful way to Eddie Jones, George Gregan, and the ARU.

And when it comes to loyalty to his new code it about matches his “loyalty” to his old one.

The
ARU had barely finished announcing that Perth would be the location of
the next Super Union Team when Sailor was publicly suggesting that he
might be one of its inaugural players – totally ignoring the fact that
he remains contracted at least for this

Season to the Queensland Reds!

Some
loyalty! And while I am on union matters, the news over the weekend
that Andy Farrell, the Great Britain Rugby League Captain, is having
talks with the English Rugby Union about switching codes. And a switch
appears inevitable.

That fact only confirms that most
league fans know, the “judges” of the International Player of the Year
Award got it very wrong. Their decision to name Farrell as the 2004
International Player of the Year was rightly treated with derision in
most league circles at the time it was announced.

Isn’t it
appropriate that he has “rewarded” the judges by planning to switch
codes – and he was probably negotiating the switch while he was
accepting the award from rugby league?

Rugby union is welcome to him. And ARU/QRU/WARU – please may Wendell an offer he can’t refuse.

Rugby league can continue to manage very nicely without him.