Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
National Rugby League chief executive David Gallop rejected claims the proposed plan to develop and gain access to the best rural players is a case of "stripping" country areas of talent.
Gallop today announced the NRL would investigate linking its clubs to rural areas, gaining access to their best players in return for development support.
"The concept is that they get a geographical area to do development work in and get priority over talent you get out of that area," he said after the two-day NRL annual conference concluded in Sydney today.
"But we've got a bit to go with that one, we need to talk to the state leagues and the country rugby leagues and look at the impact on their administration and competition."
However, Gallop dismissed oponents claims the idea was a plan to gut the country leagues.
"I think they (country leagues) appreciate development work in their areas," he said.
"The more development work the better but we need to be careful it's not interfering with what they are doing and what their current structure is.
"We have to be careful we are not duplicating what already might be done or hampering what has already been done."
Gallop said NRL clubs would commit themselves to meet standards of investment and support for the areas.
"In return, those clubs would have first option on an agreed number of elite players from that area," he said. "The concept would see clubs assigned rural areas in which they have a responsibility to work with local leagues and governing bodies to promote the game in those areas.
"Whether clubs are in a position to invest to the levels you would need and whether it can be done in a way that doesn't conflict with existing competitions and administrations in those areas has to be canvassed.
"Clubs already face issues with investing in their own junior areas given the poker machine taxes but there's a willingness to see a more organised way of supporting regional areas and the development paths offered to young athletes."
Gallop stressed that the proposal was very much in the early stages and would not be advanced without extensive consultation.
He said further discussions would be held with the ARL, NSWRL, CRL, QRL and RLPA regarding tied development areas.