Nathan Tinkler’s brazen pursuit of Cronulla prop Kade Snowden has prompted the NRL to once again explore the prospect of using a points system alongside the game’s existing salary cap.
Salary cap auditor Ian Schubert has raised the concept in a discussion paper sent to club officials, asking whether the game needed to review a points-based system of salary/talent capping given “recent media speculation in relation to a number of clubs recruiting via individuals other than those officially representing the club”.
While there is no suggestion Tinkler has broken any salary cap rules, the influx of wealthy private backers, led by the Newcastle owner and South Sydney supremo Russell Crowe, has provoked envy among rival clubs and placed the NRL on high alert.
At the time Tinkler had little involvement with the Knights, although he subsequently won control of the club at the end of March and convinced Snowden to sign a long-term contract.
Not surprisingly, Cronulla chairman Damian Irvine spoke out in support of the points system yesterday.
Irvine, who went public with his own points system last year, believes it is the only way to end the suspicion and innuendo that inevitably surrounds player signings. “Generally speaking, if the question is do I think the points system is worth exploring, the answer is yes,” he said.
“I have been on record that I do think a points system restrains the market without there being a dollar figure restaints, which is far more transparent. It’s about getting the right balance. It’s very hard to fudge the points system.
“If anything, it will take away the speculation, innuendo and rumours that are in the game.
“Every time anybody signs a person, people ask how did you fit them in?”
NRL chief executive David Gallop confirmed the points system was being explored but admitted there were difficulties associated with finding something that covered all the subtleties of player contracts.
Significantly, the NRL has been trialling a points system this year.
“We announced at the end of last year we were going to do a points system over the course of this year to see how it worked out,” Gallop said.
“We have always recognised the attractiveness of a points system but getting one to work in practice is problematic. Last year we advised the clubs we would be running a program during the course of 2011 to see whether a points system could be devised.
“It’s a work in progress.”
While Irvine has spoken publicly of the need for a points system, he isn’t the only club boss to advocate the measure as a way to combat cheating of the cap.
Raiders chief executive Don Furner has also been an advocate of such a system, having watched it work successfully in the local Canberra competition.
The issue for the NRL is finding a way to overcome the various permutations that come with a points system, an issue raised by the Rugby League Profressionals Association yesterday.
“I am prepared to look at it,” RLPA chief executive David Garnsey. “My concern with it has always been who decides what points a player is worth and what sort of areas of review might exist.
“Secondly, if players are rated for their international status, how do you rate the Papua New Guinea halfback against the Australia winger? Or perhaps more acutely, how do you rate Australia’s reserve halfback . . . against the first-string PNG five-eighth.
“It’s hard to see how you can get precise points allocations when these sort of variables come in.
“We’re certainly not shutting the door, but I would need to be satisfied that these sort of idiosyncrasies can be worked out.”