The National Rugby League has got it right
with the decision to scrap the anti-tampering law that prevents clubs
negotiating with players coming off contract before 30 June.

The law is and always has been a farce,
and increasingly it has disadvantaged NRL clubs and favoured the UK Super
League Clubs and rugby union.

If anything, the laws were working in
favour of the cashed-up UK Super League, which is able to negotiate with players
coming off contract any time during the year, gaining a head start on NRL Clubs.

Only yesterday the Broncos’ Casey McGuire
shocked his own club CEO by announcing he was joining the French Super League Club, Calatans
Dragons, next year. Last week, the Roosters’ Ryan Cross signed with the
Australian Rugby Union. Earlier, the Dragons’ Trent Barrett signed with UK Super
League Club, Wigan. And we can expect more.

Today there are reports the Raiders
fullback and captain, Clinton Schifcofske, is negotiating with the Queensland
Rugby Union, but other NRL Clubs can’t negotiate with him until after 30 June.

NRL clubs are hog-tied by an archaic rule
that not everyone honours and which an increasing number of clubs blatantly flout.
Anyone who believes that clubs don’t breach the rule by privately negotiating
with players (and then announcing the deal after 30 June) believes the tooth
fairy leaves gold bullion.

The only way is to put up with the
disruption of players who are coming off contract being able to negotiate their
future any time during the year. Is it a greater distraction when a player
negotiates in March rather than after June 30 when the finals are only about
eight weeks away?

Predictably, the Eels CEO Denis Fitzgerald has
gone ballistic, but given today’s news that yet another Eels player has been
behaving badly, his priorities should be elsewhere.

With the majority of NRL Clubs and the
Players Association believing the anti-tampering laws are not working in the
best interests of the game, this is one of the better decisions to emerge from
the game’s administrators in some time.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey