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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  • Nope never been an incentive to produce jnrs, look at the top teams the last decade no jnrs.

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