Dave Craven: Marquee players grab headlines but don’t ignore teenagers

Sam Tomkins.
Sam Tomkins.
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AS futile as the arguments are, it was right for various clubs to express their displeasure at the marquee player ruling being passed this week.

It was given the green light so it is in place for 2016. No question.

But the likes of Castleford Tigers, Wakefield Trinity and Huddersfield Giants were all correct in publicly voicing their unease about it all.

For those unaware, it means clubs will be entitled to sign one marquee player who will have a notional value on their salary cap register of either £100,000 if club trained or £175,000 if non-club trained.

For example, Wigan Warriors could pay Sam Tomkins half-a-million pounds in his first season back from New Zealand Warriors next year but, as their marquee player, the England full-back will class only as £100,000 on their cap given he originally came through their academy ranks before moving to Auckland.

What perhaps irked some chief executives was the title of an RFL press release and website story that stated Super League clubs “embraced” the concept.

Clearly some of them – four from a dozen, in fact – didn’t as they voted against the ruling for various reasons.

They were right to ensure the public knew this as anyone in the dark reading that release may have believed all was rosy in the Super League garden.

Those against it generally argue that rather than opening up the avenue whereby the richer clubs are able to lavish huge sums on one, admittedly, quality player, there should be greater emphasis on investing in youth promotion.

There is a danger that Super League, which is so difficult to predict currently given the tightness of the competition, could be split once more and see a great divide.

Personally, I don’t see how one solitary player would have such a profound effect on the competition’s parity as a whole.

It could certainly increase its profile immeasurably if it allowed for a Sonny Bill Williams or Greg Inglis to arrive in the English game but that is unlikely to ever happen.

What is more likely is that some of the finer NRL players of recent years who opted to stay at home might start thinking twice, but that shouldn’t mean we don’t have a competition as tight 
and competitive as we currently do.

Granted, if a club was able to sign five Johnathan Thurstons, there would be an inevitable chasm appear in class, but that is not the case with this ruling. It has been well thought out and evolved.

There are two separate arguments at work here – creating too big a gap between opponents’ standards and not doing enough for British kids in the sport.

By that token, the next major topic of debate has to be about encouraging aspiring teenagers to stay in the game by paying them a worthwhile pay packet and introducing a decent minimum wage, at least.

More has to be done at that level and there are varying levels of interest to do so from Super League clubs.

Re-introducing a reserve grade or Under 21s side doesn’t look like it will happen despite its obvious benefits.

Some clubs argue the costs involved are too high. Tony Smith, the Warrington Wolves coach, believes it has to be done or the sport here will pay a few years down the line.

I see his point, too. He is a fan of the marquee player ruling as well. Maybe some clubs need to re-think their beliefs on the latter.