MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 16: Cameron Smith and Billy Slater of the Storm stand for the national anthem during the World Club Challenge match between the Melbourne Storm and the Leeds Rhinos at AAMI Park on February 16, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Third Party Agreements (TPA) are the easiest way for a club to manipulate the salary cap.  Every club knows it.  Every club does it.  Some clubs are better at it than others. Some clubs have a geographical advantage that they are only too happy to exploit.

In a recent article on, Paul Gallen called for more transparency on TPAs stating, in a nutshell, some teams have a greater advantage than others in attracting TPA dollars. This advantage occurs where you have a single town or region team with no direct opposition to attracting third-party sponsors.

When you know you can attract multiple, top dollar TPAs, there is little or no incentive to offer top dollar contracts.

When you’re the only dance in town, you can call your own tune.

I have always felt that the single town/region teams have an unfair advantage in this area and it has a knock on effect with the dollars these teams have to offer in an NRL contract. These clubs have been particularly successful in recent years and have largely enjoyed an amazingly stable roster. They all say that players are willing to accept less money to stay with the club or new players are willing to accept a lower contact to move there.

In reality, they can offer undervalued contracts as they have third party suppliers lining up to offer TPAs. The higher the value of the TPAs, the lower the dollar value of the offered contract. Consequently, they have more dollars up their sleeve and can afford to offer an overvalued contract to attract a marquee player.

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Lachlan Coote recently knocked back a top dollar contract from the Dragons and accepted a mid-range contract to stay at the Cowboys with the difference being more than made up with TPAs. The rejected contract from the Dragons was several hundred thousand dollars per year higher than the accepted annual contract fee offered by the Cowboys. This is just one of the more notable examples of a contract being undervalued on the basis of “guaranteed” TPAs.

Rather than making them transparent,  TPAs can be made irrelevant to the salary cap so the salary cap is fairly applied to all teams. What is needed is a more definitive separation between dollars applied towards the salary cap and the dollars derived from TPAs.

I believe this can be achieved by excluding all TPA dollars from the salary cap/contract fee calculations, using a market generated value for each player as the sole factor in determining how many dollars that player is assigned in the salary cap.

Every club, as part of their recruitment and retention process, has an idea on what each and every NRL player would be worth to their team and how many dollars they would be prepared to shell out for him. If all clubs provided the NRL with their estimate of every player’s value, these figures (minus high and low bids) could be averaged to produce a market value price for every player that is truly determined by the market.  This could be called the deemed value of the player.

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This deemed value is the amount that would be applied towards the salary cap. If, during contract negotiations, a higher figure is offered, then this higher figure is what would be applied towards the salary cap. If a lower contract fee is offered,  the deemed value is the amount applied towards the salary cap

This would eliminate the influence of TPAs on the contract dollars being offered. TPAs would then become what they were originally supposed to be – an additional payment on top of a fairly priced contract, rather than the messy backdoor contract payment top-up that they are today.

And it would finally provide a fair impetus for a second Brisbane based team.

Now, about those ridiculous back ended contracts…


  1. TPAs might seem like unfairness, but what is really unfair is that a player who has been loyal at a club cannot be rewarded for this with a better contract.

    TPAs are the only thing that save the NRL from being an outright mercenary competition – as opposed to the half mercenary thing we have going now.

    Without TPAs, it’s very simple – team has success, team is ripped apart. Rinse and repeat. Over and over again.

    As for the second Brisbane based team – it will probably happen – but that team is going to struggle. I love how sydneysiders think it is as simple as dumping another team on a smaller city and then things will be different. Wake up and smell the coffee, the problem isn’t with Brisbane. It’s with Sydney. There are wayy too many teams. I’m guessing the NBA doesn’t have 8 teams (or whatever it is) for a city the size of Sydney.

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but the player movement is already probably too much in the NRL as it is. Take TPAs away and to me, it’ll be even worse (without something that REWARDS loyalty, success etc). Not saying TPAs are great, just saying, they are the only protection for the salary cap that very much wants to ruin successful teams.

    • Wow, it must be difficult to be a Broncos supporter.
      Yeah we should just get rid of all those Sydney teams and have an 8 team competition. Good thinking.

      • I never said get rid of them – I just said that there are too many and that people in Sydney have this awful jealousy that seems to make the crave adding teams to Brisbane “just to make it fair”

        Adding more teams in Brisbane just means there are too many teams in Brisbane. It doesn’t make things better. It doesn’t make the competition better. It doesn’t make the competition any more money (quite the opposite) – it just dilutes the talent pool and introduces another team that will be pulling miserly crowds.

        Brisbane has already had too many teams – we had the Crushers. It didn’t work. It ended. It only slight works for Sydney because of the history of the teams.

    • America also has 50 states lol what do you suggest? reduce the comp to 5 teams? put teams in locations that have previously failed? the comp originated in NSW

    • @waynethepain, loyalty based contract incentives are a great idea and they have been partially implemented by the NRL, but they have little to nothing to do withTPAs. I would like to see contract allowances for juniors that stay with their club and allowances for players that stay with the one club for 5, 10 or more years.
      With TPAs, clubs can, and do, under value contracts on the basis of TPAs that the club supposedly has no part in. This increases the player purchasing power of their contract dollars.
      As for a second Brisbane based team, why don’t you ask the Broncos why they have voted against every proposal raised by the NRL for a second team in “their” town.
      P.S. I never suggested that we eliminate TPAs. All I would like to see is their influence on contracts negated.

      • Ewen,

        That’s fine, in my books. Those players are players with “profile”, if you like. The trouble is that a player has a good season in the NRL and then all the other teams look to spend/risk all their money stealing them. That player gets absolutely nothing extra for his current club wage to retain him and all the work and training done with him means nothing. No current team gets any extra money to spend because they were successful and had a good team. So the only mechanism for them to exploit the system is literally to use their profile for TPAs (which of course can be just outright illegit, but that’s because the NRL has backed the teams into a corner).

        Like I said, TPAs are currently necessary because there is nothing protecting the clubs from success. Nothing. The NRL don’t do marquee players, they don’t do big loyalty bonuses and they don’t give a team much for winning the comp.

        In my world, teams would be banned from signing up players on big 5-10 year contacts. There would be an upper limit to how much can be spent on a player wage (including any benefits). There would be loyalty bonuses for staying at a club. There would be a draft, to help out with lower teams.

        I’m not saying make the strong, stronger – I’m saying, I don’t want to tune in Round 1, Game 1 to a team that is 50% new. It’s already way too much movement.

        The broncos are wise to vote against – they are a business and they should vote against a competing business setting up shop. I don’t want the second broncos team in this city, either – I look at Sydney and bar historical footprint of these clubs, they should all be gone (I respect we cannot). The second team will be weak. It was a farce with the Crushers. We all know what will happen with a second Brisbane team. They will pay about 1.5 million to a half for marketing, build their whole team around that one guy and take a big risk. A big gamble that will probably fail, seeing them as wooden spooners or thereabouts and crowd interest quickly dwindling. Now we have a doormat in the NRL.

        Finally, let’s be real, here. I HEAR about the Broncos being big cap cheats.. err.. when was the last time they won the comp? 12 years ago. Have they have a lot of success since? No more than many teams, really. I don’t know why people look at the Broncos and think “cheats”, honestly – their team is never that particularly good. It’s generally a solid team all around, but superstars? Hardly any.

  2. Thank you Zero Tackle for having the guts to say what a bunch of other new outlets wont, because they have vested interests. Sadly, don’t think we’ll ever eliminate TPA’s. I would think the players association would scream murder from the rooftops at the very thought of it.

    Perhaps all TPA’s should go through a branch of the NRL. Then have it so no player can be approached by the NRL to carry out TPA duties until they have a signed contract with a club for that year of proposed duties. Sure some clubs would still have advantages but at least it would be watered down a bit.

    • @butters, I wasn’t saying we should eliminate TPAs as they are a valid and viable income stream for players providing they are not used to manipulate a players contract worth.

  3. Ummmm, the Crushers left the competition 21 years ago. There are NRL players that weren’t even born when they stopped playing.
    Is it possible that the game and the business and organizational structures behind it have changed in 21 years?

    • The Crushers didn’t really have a chance to survive as 1995 was their first season then after the Super CRAP League in 1997 they were gone.
      They were axed during the Peace Conference.

  4. I think QLD could easily take another team, perhaps two – but doesn’t have to be Brisbane. For me, Gold Coast should have encompassed a lot of Northern NSW (the closest team is Newcastle), opening up regions such as Ipswich/Toowoomba, Redcliffe or Sunshine Coast could probably handle a team. I think we need to look at where league is being played and embraced on a local level – rather than trying to create demand in other states/countries where it doesn’t exist.

  5. Brisbane has enough population to have 3 or even 4 teams.
    The Broncos are situated at Red Hill which is North of the Brisbane River.
    Ipswich is 40km West.
    Sunnybank south of Brisbane has a huge population.
    Redcliffe North East of Brisbane or even at Wynnum due East have also got a good size population.

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