As the Wallabies continue to bumble and fumble their way through Europe, it is hardly surprising there is speculation the Australian Rugby Union will again try to “raid” rugby league to boost its player ranks.

It is therefore somewhat surprising that yesterday’s conference of NRL coaches and senior players (with the usual exception of Wayne Bennett) seems to have discussed just about everything except how any raid would be repelled.

Two weeks ago, Daily Telegraph Union writer, Peter Jenkins, said it was “time to raid the NRL again”, and the Wallabies fortunes have hardly improved since then.

The 2006 “raid” hardly proved to be spectacularly successful – Clinton Schifcofske left the Canberra Raiders to join the Queensland Reds rugby team, but he did turn 31 last week.

And the Roosters’ Ryan Cross switched codes to join the Western Force, but during an eight-year rugby league career he made just one representative team, the City side playing in Origin trial matches.

The raid on Mark Gasnier did not succeed, nor did the earlier attempt to snare Andrew Johns.

But the NRL, and its 16 clubs, should not be complacent. Rugby union is apparently not short of cash, and when you look at the Wallabies’ performance this year, the ARU will be under enormous pressure to open its purse.

If that does not concern the NRL then it should.

Despite the new television agreement with Nine, most NRL clubs are not particularly flash financially. But a handful would be able to match a serious offer from the ARU for a top player.

That is unless the NRL came to the party, as it did – through PBL Ltd – when Andrew Johns was being tempted to switch codes.

It is a subject the NRL and the clubs seem reluctant to address, because it inevitably raises questions about the issue most don’t want to talk about – the salary cap.

The ARU surely knows that. And it is why Peter Jenkins might get his wish sooner rather than later.

And it is one reason why the Gold Coast Titans’ prospects – or any other club’s prospects – of securing a return to rugby league by Lote Tuqiri (the most successful convert in the modern era) are not much better than zero!

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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