Rugby League

Clubs to urge NRL not to rush into scrapping National Youth League at 'blueprint' summit

Club bosses will urge the ARL Commission not to rush through reforms proposed in Shane Richardson's blueprint for the future of the game, as the outgoing head of NRL strategy and game development welcomes what he anticipates will be a "robust" summit at League Central next week.

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Richardson is soon to return to South Sydney and his final major assignment at NRL headquarters will be to run a meeting of 16 clubs called for next Wednesday to thrash out their differences on a range of initiatives he has proposed such as the so-called Platinum League and new state-based under-20s competitions.

Club heavyweights including Penrith general manager Phil Gould, Bulldogs chairman Ray Dib and new Gold Coast Titans chief executive Brian Canavan attended a meeting of interested parties at Canterbury Leagues Club on Thursday, where it was determined to urge the ARL Commission not to rush into  significantly changing the elite pathways and second-tier system, which under Richardson's plan would take new shape to coincide with the start of the next television deal in 2018.

Game plan: Shane Richardson has been working on a whole-of-game dossier.
Game plan: Shane Richardson has been working on a whole-of-game dossier. Photo: Christopher Pearce

"It's an incredibly complex issue," said Canavan, who  convened Thursday's meeting of reps from clubs, the Rugby League Players Association as well as the Country Rugby League, agents and schools.

"We drew parallels with the NYC [National Youth Cup] and the amount of time it took to implement in 2008. That was about five years. We'd like to go a bit quicker than that but there needs to be a lot more discussion with all the stakeholders, and the stakeholders go way beyond NRL clubs. 

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"We've got to make sure we get it right because you really only get one chance at these things. In a way if there is to be a change we have to predict the knock-on effects, to make sure we don't throw the baby out with the bath water. This could be another six to 12 months before we actually decide it." 

Richardson will be gone long before any changes are implemented, as he takes up a senior administrative position at the Rabbitohs next month, but he said he welcomed the clubs' examination of the "whole-of-game" blueprint and their responses. 

"We've got to make sure the clubs are happy with it and consistent with it and at the end of the day it will be implemented accordingly," Richardson said on Thursday. "It's a consultation with the clubs and feedback to get towards a stage where changes can be implemented. I think it's really great that we're having a discussion about the future of rugby league instead of a whole range of things around the game that aren't about the future of rugby league."

NRL head of football Todd Greenberg is to assume responsibility for implementation of the recommendations contained in Richardson's report, which could be adjusted based on the official response from clubs as well as the NSWRL and Queensland Rugby League. 

The summit is expected to focus on whether the NYC should be wound up and, if so, whether that occurs at the end of 2016 or 2017; the proposed phasing out of payments for under-18 players and how Richardson's vision for rookie contracts would work.

While he has proposed that players are restricted from making their NRL debuts until the year they turn 19 his plan includes an increase to the size of NRL squads to 36 players, which would include six rookies. 

The mooted revamp of the state leagues as the Platinum League, with teams in New Zealand, in country NSW and Queensland and down the track potentially in emerging league states and in the Pacific is also likely to be a hot topic.

Meanwhile, internal candidates for the vacant NRL chief executive's position including Greenberg will be interviewed for the job next week.

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