Rugby league’s new commission will help the code avoid embarrassing scenarios such as having its highest paid star, Johnathan Thurston, receive $300,000 less a year than a third-year AFL player.
Rugby league needs cash. And more cash.
For all the rhetoric about future planning, rule changes, judiciaries and juniors, the eight-person commission’s first priority is simply this … get the game some cabbage.
NRL boss David Gallop and his underlings can look after the nuts and bolts.
When it comes to player payments, rugby league has slipped behind the pack.
It has reached the point where Melbourne youngster Tom Scully, with a five-year offer worth $1 million a year to join the Greater Western Sydney AFL franchise, makes Thurston’s $700,000-a-year deal look modestly mid-range.
Thurston’s wage almost sinks to weenie-burger size when compared to the $1.5 million-a-year deal signed by Australian rugby union star Matt Giteau … five years ago.
But rugby league pays what it can. Only four NRL clubs made profits last year.
Clubs are being squeezed from every direction – the poker machine tax in NSW has killed leagues club profits; the AFL have swooped on star players Israel Folau and Karmichael Hunt and overseas rugby union clubs are becoming unnervingly competitive.
League’s new television rights deal – bringing between $1 billion and $1.4 billion – truly feels like Christmas in July even though it might take the commission a year or more to put it in place.