Over the past five years the NRL has made vast improvements in an attempt to develop the game. New TV deal, larger salary cap, expansion at grass roots level, plus Thursday and Monday night games, to name a few. Additionally, in 2012, the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) divulged plans to inject $200 million into the NRL with the promise of growing one of Australia’s favourite sports.
Throughout the last few seasons in the NRL we have seen more of the good teams remaining good, and the bad teams staying bad. Back three or four years ago, simply winning three, four or five consecutive games in season was extremely difficult, nowadays that feat isn’t so arduous.
Would introducing a transfer system further help the expansion of Rugby League?
Of course guidelines for trading would need to be discussed and outlined; the NRL would have the right to disallow trades if they didn’t deem it to be a beneficial move for both clubs involved, the amount of trades per team, how much say does a player get, the ability to request a trade if a player is unhappy, stuff like that. With all that in mind, for the purpose of this article let’s say there is one transfer window.
Transfer Window: Two months from October 15th – December 15th.
On these dates clubs would have the ability to transfer player under the NRL Trade Guildlines. Why wouldn’t this be great? Just because it has never been apart of Australia’s sporting culture, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have a positive outcome.
Trading systems are implemented in numerous, highly prevalent, world sports with much success. Football (English Premier League, La Liga), Basketball (NBA, European Leagues), Baseball (MLB), Football (NFL), and Hockey (NHL). So why wouldn’t this help our National Rugby League competition?
The Brisbane Broncos came into the 2013 NRL season completely over manned in the halves (Corey Norman, Ben Hunt, Peter Wallace and Scott Prince). Besides the four halves, they also remained heavily understrength in their outside backs; hence why Norman was pushed to fullback. On the other hand, with Ben Hornby’s retirement last year, the St George Dragons came into the 2013 campaign minus a pure halfback (Nathan Fien, who is playing halfback for the Dragons isn’t a natural number 7). Not to mention the great amount of talent they have out wide. Wouldn’t it make sense if the Broncos were allowed to propose a trade? Peter Wallace for Jason Nightingale? Ben Hunt for Daniel Vidot or Chase Stanley?
What if Ben Hunt was open to the idea of permanently playing hooker? What if Wayne Bennett and the Knights decided they wanted a young hooker such as Hunt, with a bit of experience (more than Adam Clysdale), to come off the bench and cover the injury prone Danny Buderus? Ben Hunt for James McManus?
Unfortunately for the Knights that didn’t happen, and the back injury to Buderus has forced Kurt Gidley to play hooker.
Imagine that this trade actually took place last preseason (in our official transfer window), think of the benefits:
- The Knights wouldn’t have Kurt playing hooker; meaning he would switch back to the halves where his impact on the game is much more visible.
- Ben Hunt would be starting; Ben hasn’t ever really been given a chance at the Broncos, therefore would have a great opportunity to prove himself.
- (As a Broncos fan) – Brisbane’s outside backs would have more spark and finesse, therefore more tries! Which is exactly what the men from Red Hill are lacking.
Is there a downside? No.
Established players competing in their appropriate positions, young players getting more opportunities, and the Broncos winning more games, what’s not to like? Ok, if you’re not a Broncos fan, substitute the Broncos with your team; how could this situation not be a favourable consequence for the NRL?
Of course having the ability to enhance any weak areas in a team would improve the level of competition, which is an essential key to developing any sport.
Apart from the obvious benefits to each club, the positive impact on the game from a trading window would be enormous. Ideally, the window would close about four weeks past most teams’ pre-season commencement date. What a perfect time. New players get to take part in pre-season training; and from pre-season, management could identify some last minute weaknesses and propose a trade offer late in the window. Furthermore, during a lull period for the game (October 15th– December 15th: The offseason), where League isn’t a predominant factor in most media outlets, the NRL could quite possibly add another two months of heavy media traffic from League enthusiasts caught up in the trading hype.
The amount of exposure and excitement around the NRL from a transfer window would surely increase the popularity of the game. In Europe and America, when the deadline looms for whatever sport, clubs, teams, players, and most importantly fans, are beaming with curiosity. ‘Did my team make any trades?’, ‘Did my rival team do anything in the window?’, ‘Will the trades be a success?’, ‘Will a team’s chemistry improve or get worse?’; just think of the added media coverage on the sport itself.
It’s an idea that would require a sufficient amount of labor; bargaining agreement, rules and regulation, sanctions, and so on. However it’s far from impossible. It would surely be a step in the right direct, one that would improve Rugby League on and off the field. Why not give teams the opportunity to fill gaps and flaws in their sides? Why not give players the chance to leave a club if they’re unhappy?
Sport is a business. Right?