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Last week, Jeremy Hawkins was denied his opportunity to play for the Canberra Raiders in the NRL due to the second tier salary cap. In February this year this cap was amended and increased from $375,000 to $440,000 in an attempt to allay this issue.
Alas, it has failed. Why? Because it was a band aid fix to a bigger issue that could be solved quite easily.
Every year, each club has to name a full 25 man squad, players whose salaries fall under the NRL Salary Cap for their respective clubs.
This is where the problem lies. Squad sizes of 25 are just too small. Of the 173 squads from 2004 til 2013, there have been just 8 which finished the season using 25 players or less.
In the same time, there have been 13 occasions where a side has used 34 players or more.
The most common number of players a club uses in a year:
29 players - 28 occasions
28 players - 25 occasions
30 players - 19 occasions
27 players - 16 occasions
26 players - 15 occasions
31 players - 14 occasions
33 players - 10 occasions
32 players - 9 occasions
23 to 25 players - 8 occasions
Even after 18 rounds this year, nearly all the teams have used more than 25 players already.
To add to this absurd squad figure of 25 is this alarming fact: The last time every team in the competition had 25 players or less in the same season was in 1950.
It's pretty clear that a typical squad size in the modern day game is 30 players.
Having restrictions preventing new players from covering for injured players in the NRL side is absurd. We should be giving young players every opportunity they can to play at an elite level.
The NRL should also be employing good occupational health and safety practices, where possible in a contact sport, by allowing clubs to replace injured players without penalty and without forcing injured players to continue playing, so as to help the club remain under the salary cap.
Especially given the comments by Robbie Farah a few weeks ago that suggested none of the NRL players are insured.
All the NRL needs to do to fix this issue is increase squad sizes to 30. To accommodate the extra players, increase the salary cap by a million dollars.
This would ensure that players outside the 30 man squad will be able to play without the club breaching the second tier salary cap, players won't be playing injured, more players will get exposure to the NRL thus creating a larger talent pool, which is a great thing if the NRL continues to plan towards introducing new teams in the near future.