My colleague Michael Pascoe’s observations concerning the “worth” of rugby league converts to rugby union misses the real point of the seemingly neverending saga about players swapping codes.
The real point is that neither rugby union nor rugby league end up benefiting and the only real winners are modern day sport’s parasites – the player managers/agents.
Michael may well be right in his assessment that Lote Tuqiri is not worth $1 million a year – but it was the ARU, not the NRL, which set the high benchmark that player managers salivate over.
When the ARU targeted Andrew Johns and Mark Gasnier their respective managers had a field day. In the end, neither was lost to rugby league, but both were able to extract more money out of rugby league. And the managers get an unhealthy share of that for precious little effort.
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But now the boot is on the other foot. If the ARU wants to retain Tuqiri – and the hierarchy is much more enthusiastic than Michael Pascoe is – it is going to have to pay more than it ought to. Tuqiri and his manager will talk to NRL clubs, and then probably go back to the ARU seeking more. Either way he can’t lose, and whichever code gets his signature will have to pay more than it should.
In the case of Matt Giteau, would the ARU and the Western Force have paid him the $1 million or thereabouts he is getting if the prospect of a sizeable NRL contract had not been in the background?
In recent weeks, Sonny Bill Williams and Craig Gower have mused about switching codes. In the case of the former there is not the slightest doubt in my mind his musing was timed to coincide with discussions at the Canterbury Bulldogs about his next contract.
It is becoming a farce. Rugby league players now threaten to join the ARU, or UK Super League, or even (in the case of Gower) rugby union in France. Union players threaten to switch to rugby league, and on it goes.
But there is a new twist to the code swapping saga that Michael did not mention. He assessed that neither Tuqiri nor Giteau would win a spot in the All Blacks. True. But one of the current All Blacks, Ma’a Nonu, is seriously considering switching to the NRL!
Whether or not Tuqiri, Mat Rogers or Wendell Sailor have given rugby union good value is debatable. But what is not debatable is that it is player managers and agents who are the real, and unworthy, beneficiaries of code swapping.
And that is good enough reason for both codes to ask whether it is all worth it.