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It is just after 11am Sunday morning. The Sunday Footy Show is on the telly, just like any other Sunday. And just like any other Sunday, Phil Gould gets on his soap box and denounces the salary cap. Despite his protestations, the salary cap works. This year the competition is more even than it has ever been, so much so that only 6 points separates first from ninth.
Even more telling is the fact that we don't have the same teams year after year winning the premiership. Take the following examples:
English Premier League Soccer No salary cap in place. Over the last 11 seasons, Manchester United have won 8 times, Arsenal 2 and Blackburn 1. 3 winners in 11 years. Not exactly something to give hope to fans of other teams. It must be noted that the Blackburn team that won in 1995 are largely considered to have bought their way to the premiership. They spent millions of Pounds on top shelf players and won, rather than building their way up to the top.
Scottish Premier League Soccer No salary cap in place. This is even worse than the English competition. In Scotland at the start of the season it's generally known that either Glasgow Rangers or Glasgow Celtic will win the competition, so games between those two sides are virtually a best-of-four grand final series, with the team that comes out on top here almost always taking the title.
National Football League (USA) Salary cap in place. In the last 10 seasons, there have been 9 different Superbowl winners, the team winning twice being the John Elway-led Denver Broncos. The salary cap does its work. In 1996, Atlanta were one of the worst teams in the competition. In 1999 they were runners-up.
National Rugby League The results here are there for all to see. In 2001, the grand finalists were Parramatta and Newcastle. This year, they are struggling to make the finals. Also in 2001, Canberra and Penrith were cellar-dwellers. This year, they both hold a share of the lead.
But despite the excitement of this year's season, some people are still not happy. The Bulldogs campaigned for a salary cap rise earlier in the year, not surprising after they were caught cheating it at the end of last year. As a result of the penalties imposed, they have lost star players Nigel Vagana, Travis Norton and Willie Talau to rival clubs for next season, as well as fringe first-graders Glenn Hall, Todd Polglase, Gavin Lester and Shane Marteene. While this is disappointing for the Bulldogs, it will mean the clubs these players go to are stronger as a result, and interestingly all except Lester have gone to clubs that have struggled somewhat this year.
Another club against the current cap is the Sydney Roosters, which is where Phil Gould fits in. As coaching director of the Roosters and commentator on channel 9, he has a very influential position on which to air his views about what's troubling his club. His latest denouncement of the salary cap came when he revealed that the Roosters would probably have to let Todd Payten go at the end of the year because they were feeling the pinch of the salary cap. Surprisingly, that same week the Roosters had signed Lester away from the Bulldogs after Eric Grothe went back to Parramatta. They have also recently lost Joe Williams to Souths, which would seem to indicate Payten was asking for more than the club could afford. He has since signed with the Wests Tigers, one club to have greatly benefited from the salary cap in recent years.
Looking forward, thanks to the salary cap, next year should bring with it an even better standard of football than this year. The Tigers should be more competitive than they have been this year, being able to add the likes of Brett Hodgson, Pat Richards, Nick Graham and Scott Prince, among others, to their playing roster. Souths will be strengthened by having Glenn Hall up front, a huge gain and one of the most promising props coming through the Premier League system at the moment, while Joe Williams and Dean Byrne may finally provide the halves combination they have been desperately searching for.
Whatever happens next year, the salary cap as it stands is great for our game. As the saying goes, if the cap fits, wear it. And this cap well and truly fits.
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