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Fawning over Folau, salary cap in hand, sells league short


Steve Mascord

Laughing all the way to the bank ... but the NRL was right not to bend the salary cap rules to secure Israel Folau's return to league.

Laughing all the way to the bank ... but the NRL was right not to bend the salary cap rules to secure Israel Folau's return to league. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Discord is sick of hearing about how rugby league "bungled" the return of Israel Folau.

Why is the sport so insecure that its athletes become more important to followers after they leave?

From all accounts, Folau was no better than a fair Australian Rules player. Shouldn't his stocks in our game have slumped in his absence, not risen to the point where rules should be bent to get him back?

There are many of you who don't believe the salary cap is responsible for the NRL having crowned nine different premiers in 15 years. I don't agree with you. I think it is easily the biggest contributing factor to that parity, which is an even more remarkable achievement in the absence of a draft.

The salary cap is rugby league's most successful construct. Stripping two premierships from the Storm because they cheated it only makes it stronger and more influential – there is now an even greater deterrent to breaking it.

The salary cap is more important than any individual – including Israel Folau and Sonny Bill Williams. As Adrian Morley writes in his new biography, the evenness of the NRL is a rarity in world sport. Its rarity makes it precious.

Sure, it would have been nice if the salary cap increase had been introduced before Folau decided to go to rugby union. But I don't think the ARL Commission should give a tinker's cuss about the plans of an individual player. Nor should the commissioners care about what I write in this column.

They are there to do what is in the interests of the game, and they are there to do it when it can be accomplished without complications.

It's a matter for Israel Folau to wait around for them to do it or to go and do something else. That's what he's done and good luck to him.

This tendency to fawn over those who leave rugby league and beg them to come back is unseemly and even a little pathetic.


Former Great Britain captain Paul Sculthorpe was made and MBE and Graham Lowe – who's done just about everything in the game – was afforded the New Zealand Order Of Merit.


Terrible news for the talented Ben Jones-Bishop at Leeds: he's out for six months due a scary blood clot affecting his lungs. Will Australian trialist Joe Vickery get a start in the World Club Challenge against Melbourne?


Expect Japan to tour Australia in the pre-season, with a Test in Sydney against Portugal and an appearance at the Cabramatta Nines.


To comments now and RottenRonnie is like many of you – he wants the scrum to be a contest again. Sorry Ronnie, I can't see the point. All those penalties and repacked scrums and even potential injury for a generation of forwards who'd never had to push? For what? The purpose of the scrum in rugby league is to keep six defensive players out of the action and open things up for the attacking team. Now, if you give the attacking team an extra attacker – like they did on Boxing Day when they trialled some experimental rules – you are taking things a step further.

Sure, the scrum is a joke. But to allow the side with five players to beat the team with six is to laugh, loudly, at it.

Dave wanted more repercussions for players taking dives. The refs, Dave, have one answer for that – "we're not doctors". Hard to police in soccer; hard to police in any sport.

Sandbunny wants the State of Origin champions to play New Zealand each year. But I think there would be a genuine fear that it would take a lot of sheen off Tests. If Queensland beats New Zealand one week, how would any NSW players get into the Australian team the next week? And who would watch? If the Kiwis lost to an Australian state, it would be just embarrassing.

And with the Warriors, you could hardly have it as NZ Residents. It would just be the Warriors side.

15 comments so far

  • Steve - Why are Japan spending money coming to play "Portugal" in Australia? Wouldnt it make more sense to head to Bangkok and follow up the good work undertaken by those involved in the recent Asian Cup fixture? Also I have noted that you have mentioned in a few of your columns that SBW wont be playing for NZ at this years RLWC, perhaps you could mention to him that if he wants to make history he could become the first player to win a RL and RU World Cup.
    PS happy new year and keep up the good work.

    Date and time
    January 04, 2013, 8:33PM
    • Would it make sense to bring Queenland and New South Wales over to play France, Wales, Scotland or Ireland. I think you have a tournment with Australia playing in the 4 Nations over here in the UK, you could bring over the players not playing in the 4 Nations that played in the State of Origin. I think it would help Scotland and Ireland plus would give them a pull of playing some the top players in the world.

      Chris Talbot
      Formby, UK
      Date and time
      January 05, 2013, 4:08AM
      • i agree completely about Folau, yes it would have been great to have him back but we couldnt bend the rules for him even if he was a great player which he isnt, just a very good one. plenty of top players have to switch clubs and cant play at their club of choice like Folau who only seemed to want to play at Parra

        Date and time
        January 05, 2013, 5:04AM
        • Steve, I thoroughly agree about the salary cap; it is a great equaliser - and central to having an interesting and reasonably equal competition. Long may it continue.
          However, that should not be simply conflated with the Folau fiasco - there was more to the Izzy saga than just trying to fit him into a salary cap arrangement. At the time he left the AFL, he made it clear that he wanted to consider his options - and all the best to him on that. I was under the impression that prevarication and uncertainty by League officials (in reaching an agreement with Folau) had been a significant component in his eventual decision to go with Union. It was not just about the money.

          Howe Synnott
          Date and time
          January 05, 2013, 7:42AM
          • The solution to players taking dives is easy. If the referee is forced to stop the game and call time off then the downed player must leave the field. They can either be replaced using an interchange or the team plays a man down until say the next change in possession. The incentive becomes an imperative to get to your feet as quickly as possible or risk leaving your team a man down for the rest of the current possession or wasting an interchange. If you genuinely can't get to your feet or are so wobbly once you do that the ref calls time off then you probably need medical attention on the sideline anyway. End result, the only players who stay down are those who can't actually get up.

            Date and time
            January 05, 2013, 9:17AM
            • The only result of this hideous ploy will be a gross reduction of true sports people supporting the game. The same can be said of the screaming idiots that infest ladies' tennis.What is needed is for the 'COAT WEARERS' to be replaced by some people with forethought and a tough attitude to these types of actions that annoy the true sports fan..

              francis the talk...........
              Date and time
              January 05, 2013, 10:49AM
            • The only reason players take dives is because the refs aren't doing their jobs. If the refs did their jobs and called a penalty on illegal hits then the players wouldn't need to stay down.

              Date and time
              January 07, 2013, 1:26PM
            • @Greg from Wollstonecraft... so when Scott Prince cops a nice slap on the chest and stays down, clutching his jaw hoping for a penalty... that's the ref's fault as he isn't doing his job???

              Date and time
              January 10, 2013, 2:28PM
          • What actually happens after a scrum is the 5/8 or centre runs the ball up to the defensive line and takes the tackle. So much for an attacking opportunity with 6 defensive players out of the line. A waste of 3 minutes all up - and boring too. Anything different during those 3 minutes would be useful.

            Date and time
            January 05, 2013, 10:19AM
            • Wow! An intelligent article written by a League journalist. Well done Steve, pinpoint accuracy. League needs to stop this inferior complex and just get on with it. Falou is no real loss. He is just one player.

              Date and time
              January 05, 2013, 7:20PM

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