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The NRL have ruled out salary cap concessions for NRL clubs who are trying to stave off the pariahs from Rugby Union as Brisbane Broncos winger, Lote Tuqiri becomes the next target of the talentless bores of the kick and clap code. The ARU are prepared to throw close to half a million a season at Tuqiri, as speculation intensifies he will make the switch to union.
The NRL are on the verge of introducing salary cap exemptions for Union players under the age of 21. What this means is any NRL club can spend whatever they want to secure the services of any up and coming Rugby Union player and effectively drain whatever talent pool they may have. The effect of this will be Rugby Union will have to start watching their own junior development system and if the NRL are successful, it would almost certainly stifle any plans the ARU had for expanding the Super 12 competition within Australia. This will certainly fly in the face of ARU CEO, John O?Neill. If the NRL wanted to really get under the skins of the ARU, they should announce every major signing from Union just before a major match, such as the Bledisloe Cup and Tests against France and South Africa.
The move is a shrewd one by the NRL and will at best force Union to concentrate on developing their own athletes but there are sure to be some bright young talents who will slip through the cracks and make the switch to the greatest game of all. The move would also help clubs like Melbourne who have no junior base to establish a foothold in Melbourne by having a crack at what Union has to offer.
The biggest winner would be the New Zealand Warriors, where Union is still the number one game but League has made inroads into their player base and with the Warriors one of the top teams in the NRL this year, any young Union star would have to think long and hard about not signing with the Warriors. The other fourteen clubs could also start to plunder the ranks of the amateur teams in New Zealand and create a wasteland and turn the tide in favour of League. This is one of the best strategic moves the NRL has made and it also shows they are serious about developing the code beyond the isolated pockets it currently finds itself in. Rugby League players are greater athletes than their Union counterparts and with so many promising players coming through the junior development system, Union will hit the panic button and scramble to sign whoever they can.
Could this be the catalyst for the game to take its rightful place as the world?s premier professional sport?