by Tom Daunt
COMMENT: I want to tell you a story of a young rugby league fan I know. He is 12 years old and has followed the game for five years.
In that time he has followed, almost obsessively, three separate teams. Why? Because his favourite player keeps getting squeezed out his respective side due to the salary cap. This young rugby league fanatic from Gympie now supports a Sydney club. A club that he has very little chance of actually going to watch play. One that he will not interact with on a personal level at fan days or media days.
The writing has been on the wall for some time. The National Rugby League salary cap has to go.
Reports in The Australian this week have detailed tensions between the Rugby League Players Association and the NRL over the cap.
The reports say the RLPA is prepared to challenge the NRL over the validity of the salary cap.
This action has been questioned by legal experts who have indicated that the courts have in fact already deemed the salary cap as legitimate and any legal challenge could be futile.
In my view, capping the market may be a reasonable control measure, and in theory is a perfect way to even out a competition that is regarded as the most competitive and elite of any sport in the world.
But, communism was good in theory as well, and just because something looks good on paper doesn't mean that it is practically effective.
It is no secret rugby league is struggling in regional areas.
We here in the gold city have gone from four teams with three grades in each to struggling to get one reserve grade side.
I am not saying that the salary cap has a direct impact on regional footy, but I am saying if you put restrictions on the earning potential of any job, it will deter people from doing it.
If you compare the NRL to other codes of a similar level around the world, such as football's English Premier League and Major League Baseball in America (both of which do not have salary caps) you can see a free player market only enhances player retention in the sport.
Very few MLB players have gone across to play professional football or lacrosse or basketball, but it seems as though every second player in the NRL has tried their hand at rugby union or boxing or Aussie rules or some other sport they were never going to really succeed at.
In my view, to eliminate the cap is to grow the game.
If there is no cap, there are no salary cap cheats. If there are no salary cap cheats, then there is more transparency, if there is more transparency, families come back to the game.
If families come back to the game, regional areas start to embrace it again.
To me it is quite logical.