BY CURTIS WOODWARD
Clubs lobbying for a higher salary cap in 2018 only have themselves to blame as they prepare to meet with NRL officials on Thursday at League Central. Tensions are at boiling point but how much should you believe from the powerbrokers in club land?
Canterbury Bulldogs Chairman Ray Dib invited a number of other influential figures from rival teams to Canterbury Leagues Club on Monday to put together a battle plan before their meeting with NRL Chief Executive Todd Greenberg.
The Bulldogs and others including Sydney Roosters and Cronulla Sharks have spent up big for next season after former ARLC Chairman John Grant told clubs the cap would be propped up to $10 million.
Somewhere along the line that changed.
According to the St George Illawarra Dragons, the NRL has been in direct and constant contact with clubs with the view that the cap would be $9.2 million – not $10 million.
“We’re under specific instructions from the NRL on what the salary cap is so we feel we’re in a really comfortable position,” Dragons recruitment boss Ian Millward told dragons.com.au.
“All clubs are being communicated with on a regular basis and we’re complying with that.”
Millward’s comments make you wonder what the likes of the Bulldogs are on about.
The Bulldogs are in a horrible position due to back-ended contracts. They have also signed superstars Aaron Woods and Kieran Foran from rival clubs under the impression that the cap would be bigger.
It seems some clubs have gone mad and others have listened to the NRL – even if the NRL has moved the goalposts slightly since Grant’s comment in 2016.
The Newcastle Knights are also in a healthy position for next season with Coach Nathan Brown challenging Greenberg and the NRL to stand firm against clubs that have overshot the proposed target.
“Everyone got the email saying you have to work off 9.1 million and if you don’t it’s your responsibility,” Brown told Triple M on the weekend.
“Some went over it and took a chance – some like us stayed under it in the hope that players would come along. Let’s hope our friends at the NRL hold their nerve and make them go under it and don’t allow something like a grandfather rule.
“Those that put the market into a spin have to pay the price.”
The Knights should be rewarded for playing within the rules – as should the Dragons.
A target for Newcastle is Bulldogs skipper James Graham.
“We had some interest in James Graham some time ago but he wanted to stay at Canterbury and they didn’t want to let him go,” Brown added.
“If the NRL do the right thing and make them go under the cap then they might have to let a player go.”
They may have to let a few more go.
A scary scenario for Bulldogs fans is to lose club favourites like Graham, Josh Jackson or David Klemmer and never see Woods and Foran walk into Belmore.
“Our position remains that we want to use this opportunity to basically get our club to a place of financial sustainability, which this new funding deal was going to do for almost every club in the NRL,” Wests Tigers chair Marina Go said.
“I’m just concerned that every discussion we have is about eroding the margin.”
That margin she speaks of is the $12.5 million each club will receive from the NRL next season.
It seems some clubs are happy to play within the rules.
Why should they be penalised for other club’s mistakes?