CAIRNS, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 17: Jake Clifford of the Cowboys scores a try during the NRL trial match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Wests Tigers at Barlow Park on February 17, 2018 in Cairns, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

International Rugby League deputy chair Troy Grant has suggested a concept that could see players who have signed with rival clubs for the 2022 season switch teams a year early on loan deals, per NRL.com.

With Matt Burton and Jake Clifford both set to join the Bulldogs and Knights respectively in 12 months time, Grant suggested the duo could join their pending new homes on a temporary basis for the 2021 season.

Both Burton and Clifford will play one more season with their current clubs before making their respective moves, with Canterbury and Newcastle likely to be keen on early releases.

Super League have been doing it for a while, obviously the EPL does it and various other sports around the world have loan systems,” Grant said.

“Baseball has trades from the major league down to minor leagues and the NBA does the same so I just think it is an evolution that makes sense for the NRL.”

A loan would benefit both clubs, with Grant suggesting the following rules:

  • Pro-rata payments from the club loaning the player to his employer;
  • Players could be recalled if needed by their original club; and,
  • Loaned players not allowed to play against the club they are contracted to.

“With a couple of simple rules like that I think it has got some merit,” Grant said. “It keeps the best players on the park as much as possible. There is always the risk of injury but if they are going to play lower grades there is a risk of getting injured there.

“These are guys who are going in 2022 so that gives a club like Penrith, if they are going to loan Burton out, an opportunity to get eyes on the next player they are developing to replace him.”

The NRL granted the Warriors to acquire players on loan due to the club having to relocate to Australia to keep the season alive, while Melbourne and Wests exchanged Harry Grant and Paul Momirovski on a 12-month swap-loan basis.

With Burton competing for five-eighth alongside Jarome Luai and Tyrone May, and Clifford battling with fellow Cowboys halves Michael Morgan and Scott Drinkwater, an early release loan deal would grant the players their requested moves in 2021, whilst still being able to be recalled by their parents clubs if injuries to first-team players persisted.