As has long been discussed in rugby league circles, certain clubs such as Parramatta, Penrith, Brisbane and even the Dragons, are often seen as development clubs. Brisbane are at an advantage as they are a one team town and any club wishing to poach a junior has to try and talk them into leaving home.

For clubs such as Parramatta and Penrith, their junior ranks are open to be pilfered by other Sydney clubs, more intent or grabbing the next superstar at the age of 17 or 18, when much of the development work has been done.

Should NRL clubs therefore be expected to develop junior players if their junior playing ranks can be so openly pilfered?

The argument for developing juniors is that you have the chance to stumble upon a generational talent that would cost a huge amount on the open market, but costs you virtually nothing and puts you in the box seat to retain them.

The argument against junior development can be seen in the case of Kalyn Ponga and North Queensland. Or, closer to home, Utoikamanu and the Tigers.

There are three ways the NRL could approach this. 

The first is to keep things as is. There are more pressing problems at the moment in the game and you'd assume a handful of "development" clubs annoyed at the odd junior getting poached is a fair way down the pecking order compared to expansion and contract negotiations.

The second is to keep the system the same but introduce a transfer fee. That way the junior development club isn't left out of pocket when it comes to developing players who are poached. It also acts as an incentive for clubs to keep developing players.

The third is to abolish the junior system as it is, redraw the lines and have the NRL oversee all junior development with a more organised and better structured junior competition. Those players then go into a draft.

Now I don't think the NRL is even entertaining the third option. It will require years of work and will no doubt meet some resistance from the players union. The second option, for mine, is the most likely and level-headed scenario. 

It is easy to implement and allows for clubs like Parramatta to get something back for the talent they produce. It's physically impossible for us to retain all the players we develop, the least the club should get is some monetary return when those players inevitably are signed elsewhere.

Now to add to this, we could also see the introduction of a loan system as has just occurred between Melbourne and the Tigers. The Storm have loaned the Tigers Harry Grant and in return the joint venture has loaned Melbourne Paul Momirovski. Both players remained signed to their parent club with that club also paying their wages. 

This is the same system used in football around the world and works a treat. Players in need of top level experience get it, clubs that need players in a pinch but don't want to jump through salary cap hoops can recruit. I believe the players also can't play against their parent club (that's how it works in football anyway).

This type of loan system can also benefit players wanting to fight for a first grade spot but being unable to play first grade. It's also a great way to help develop players without either taking the risk of playing them in the NRL too early, or selling them and then watching them turn into top quality players.

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  • Should be cash incentives if a junior under 21 leaves.  a club should get a development fee.

    Clubs would still poach but would have to be more targeted with who they approach if its going to cost them.

    If they play rep footy within 3years of graduating from NYC the development club recieves money.


    • Who is going to force the buying club to pay this fee ?

      What if they refuse ?

      What if the young player is off contract ? Are you limiting his freedom of movement ?

      • Good questions I'm not smart enough to answer lol.

        I guess you could do similar to soccer contracts were sometimes a players development club recives money for the player even after they have completed the transfer.

        Id be happy with a draft system similar to the AFL clubs could try sign a junior within their own system prior to the draft if the player chooses to not sign and opt into the  draft it creates a free market etc..

  • The Transfer system is deeply flawed and can't work in a salary capped league. Would transfer fees then be included in the salary cap ? Who sets the fees and how do you prove that a particular player is a product of a certain junior system. The NRL couldn't get its head around the idea that Greg Inglis was born and bred in Kempsey yet somehow was eligible to play for Qld. 

    Mitch Moses was born and bred in Ryde, he played underage footy for Holy Cross & Carlingford, both of which are in the Balmain JRL, but then was signed by the Eels and played Harold Matts. The Eels then let him walk and was signed by the Tigers to play SG Ball & Jersey Flegg before playing NRL with the Tigers, then ultimately coming back to the Eels.

    So who gets the transfer fees in this example ?

    And would transfer fees apply to a guy like Oregan Kaufusi who has already made his NRL debut as opposed to Stephano Utoikamanu who hasn't ?

    And what if the signing club simply refuses to pay the Transfer Fee ? What happens to the player in question then. He wants out but can't go anywhere unless someone is paying a Transfer Fee. 

    Furthermore, if the young player is off contract transfer fees cannot be applied. The Bosman ruling put an end to that in European Football, so why would the NRL, and especially the players association ever support such an idea themselves. 

    They wouldn't.

    With a draft system, at least you have the option of giving the players incentives to accept that as a system.


    • Pretty simple really. Did said player sign a contract with said club? No, not a registered junior. Yes, transfer fee applies whilst they are signed. Are current junior contracts registered in a salary cap? If yes, then it would be included. If not, then it wouldn't be included.

      You answered your own question there Brett regarding Moses. He was in the Eels system. Just because you play in a club's district, does not mean you are a junior for that club. 

      Now the Eels let him walk, so they released him and then the Tigers picked him up. The Tigers did not actively pursue him and try to sign him whilst under contract. The transfer fee should only be paid for players under contract where another club tries to get them to break their contract. If a player is released then it's effectively a free transfer. If a player's deal has run out and they are not re-signed then it is a free transfer.

      Regarding Oregon. It really depends if you're making the transfers apply to only juniors or if you're including NRL players as well. It'd be easy to draw the line and say, if a player has played in the NRL, then the junior transfer fee is not applicable.

      If a club refuses to pay the transfer fee then the player can't be signed by the club. It would be a condition of doing business. If you want to poach a player then you'd best be prepared to pay for it. Players can agitate for moves and either force a transfer or get a release.

      • We already have an informal system of compensation if a player wants to be released from his contract. We don't need a transfer fee system for that. The reality is that the vast majority of player transfers occur when a player is off contract, in which case a transfer system doesn't apply. 

        In the Mitch Moses case he spent time in both the Eels & Tigers underage systems. He played Harold Matts for us and he played SG Ball & Jersey Flegg for the Tigers. So whose junior is he ? And if you're saying that when he played for Holy Cross & Carlingford that he wasn't in the Tigers system, then that simply green lights NRL clubs scouting the best prospects under the age of 15, and it certainly happens. Furthermore, if that is the case, the Eels would've had to pay Carlingford a transfer fee for picking him in their Harold Matts team, instead of the Tigers. 

        It's not a system that can work IMO, not in a salary capped league.

        • You're either deliberately twisting my words or not understanding me. The transfer fee would only apply to NRL clubs and their junior ranks. Carlingford wouldn't qualify for a transfer fee given they're just a regular junior club, they're not an NRL junior team.

          It's really simple and you're trying to make it difficult, Brett. In Moses' case, there is no transfer fee. The Eels released him, the Tigers signed him technically as a free agent. If another club were to have then poached Moses from the Tigers SG Ball side then a transfer fee would apply. Given we signed Moses after playing in the NRL, there would be no transfer fee.

          • So what you’re saying is that if the player is not contracted to another club at underage level or is coming off contract at the end of the season  and he is signed as you said as a free agent, then no transfer fee would apply.

            Have I got that right ?

            • Correct. That's how the EPL's transfer fees work. If you are off contract at the end of a season or unsigned, then there is no transfer fee to pay.

              • I’m aware of how the EPL works Super.

                So then the question is how many kids under the age of 18 who are currently contracted are then being poached by rival clubs ?

                It can’t be that many, and if so why isn’t the players current club refusing to release him ?

                Yransfer fees don’t apply to off contract players or players who are coming off contract, they only apply to players who are contracted beyond the end of the season. 

                Have the Eels had any players recently “stolen” who were contracted ?

                If not, then transfer fees don’t apply unless they are a condition for releasing the player early, and clubs already work that out amongst themselves. 

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