NZRL Billing Australia For Talent

The New Zealand Rugby League Foundation has started chasing development fees for Kiwi players who are signed to Australian NRL clubs.

The foundation, which is in charge of developing league in New Zealand, has missed out on $500,000 a year because a formal arrangement has not existed with Australia.

Unable to stop young players leaving for Australia, they are now able to bill the clubs they join up to $15,000 a player.

The money is intended to reimburse the players' clubs for the time and trouble invested in them.

Richard Bolton, coaching and development manager for the foundation, said it was a blessed tonic after years of hearing scouts watching junior games and claiming: "I'll sign the kid up if he makes another run like that".

He said that the foundation was making good progress and had collected almost $100,000.

"What we need is another franchise in New Zealand. We have so many kids that want to play."

Mick Watson, foundation chairman and Warriors chief executive, has spoken against Australian "pilfering" and supports the fee collection.

He said the NRL was considering expanding to 16 teams and Wellington was a contender for a second Kiwi franchise.

There are concerns a new Aussie ploy will cut the legs out from under the development fee payments. One league talent scout, Bob Hall, is arranging for players as young as 15 to attend college at Keebra Park High School on a league scholarship. It means teenagers that spend two years at an Australian school can progress with development fees applying