Thursday, 13 June 2013

Fixing the NRL Salary Cap (2013)

The absurdity of the second tier salary cap has reared its head quite emphatically in the past week due to the circumstances that have prevented talented Penrith rookie Fullback Matt Moylan not being allowed to play because his match payments would exceed the club’s second tier salary cap and thus, put the Panthers over the cap.

With the number of players seeking massively increased salaries with the cap increase, it means there is a very real potential that a team could be hit as hard by injuries as Penrith have been this year and they will have to choose between fielding less than 17 players on game day, playing an injured player, or exceeding the salary cap.

This situation should never take place.

Basically speaking, the NRL salary cap covers the top 25 players at each club. The NYC squads have their own cap as well. The second tier cap is used to cover those who play in the NRL, on match payments only, and who aren’t members of the NRL and NYC squads.

This leads to a number of issues, some of which have been fleetingly discussed over the years but with no action.

*It forces NRL clubs to use NYC players to cover injuries in the NRL, instead of older players in feeder clubs or other competitions. This has often been criticised as it can lead to greater injuries, especially long term, to the younger players. A lot of these players aren’t up to NRL standard at the time either, which is why the NYC is in place.

This is a major reason why a genuine Reserve Grade competition must be reinstated, as a stepping stone between NYC and NRL. Instead of a second tier salary cap, have a reserve grade cap. Three grades worth of players should be able to cover injuries without any concerns.

*Since 2007, there have been just 5 instances out of 96, where a team has used 25 players or less in a year (2013 not included). These were Souths (2012) 25 players, Manly (2012) 24 players, Manly (2011) 25 players, Manly (2010) 24 players and New Zealand Warriors (2007) 23 players.

This is a breakdown of the number of players a squad used in a season for the years 2007-2012 (inclusive):

23 players – 1
24 players – 2
25 players – 2
26 players – 8
27 players – 13
28 players – 18
29 players – 16
30 players – 10
31 players – 10
32 players – 5
33 players – 6
34 players – 1
36 players – 2
37 players – 1
38 players – 1

With this data it is clear to see that having an NRL squad of 25 is too small as it is very rare that a club uses 25 players or less.

If the NRL squad size was increased from 25 players to 30 and the salary cap increased by $880,000 it would almost abolish the sort of crazy circumstances that prevent young talented players like Matt Moylan from being forced to miss playing in the NRL due to some accounting by-law.

Reinstating a genuine reserve grade competition, of which every club must have a side (as they do in the NYC) would completely prevent this sort of absurdity from happening ever again.

It would also mean more advertising space for sponsors, more games to televise, more games on game day, better value for money for fans, fans at games for longer, less long term and severe injuries to the young talent coming through the NYC system and a stronger NRL competition.

Everyone wins.


  1. Is there any salary cap for feeder teams/reserve grade teams currently? If there is, then really their is no need to increase the top squad size, nor even have a 2nd Tier salary cap as it would be covered under that by the salary cap for each grade.

    As Phil Gould stated, the reason for the 2nd Tier cap was to stop teams stockpiling junior talent, but this was previous to the U20's comp being around and having a salary cap.

    If there is no feeder team/reserve grade salary cap, then one should be created so that all contracted players can be covered correctly and also ensure that a proper distribution of lower grade talent occurs.

  2. Great article. It's sounds like the problems in the NRL salary cap are the same ones we face in the Super League.


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