A cashed-up competition can now begin to lure back the stars

A cashed-up competition can now begin to lure back the stars

The historic $1billion television rights deal should open the door for Israel Folau and Karmichael Hunt to return to rugby league.

While Hunt has made a strong fist of his second season of AFL with the Gold Coast Suns, Folau's transition has taken a lot longer and he has struggled to make an impact with the GWS Giants.

Wouldn't it be great to see Izzy Folau back in a rugby league jersey?

Wouldn't it be great to see Izzy Folau back in a rugby league jersey?

Off the field, they have been major winners for our rival code.

Folau, especially, has been an important marketing tool for the AFL as it strives to make its mark in rugby league heartland in western Sydney.


I would love to see them both come back and dazzle fans with their amazing skills.

As the two dominant football codes in this country, the NRL and the AFL are compared constantly in the way they operate and the reach their respective games have in Australia.

The enormous funding the AFL has had has given them a headstart with expansion and development.

But after the NRL's own new lucrative deal was finalised earlier this week, we can now get back on a level pegging and take the game to the next level.

A delicate balancing act will be required to ensure the injection of funds goes to the right places. Increasing the salary cap to close to $6million in the next few years will go a long way to preventing players from switching codes, whether it be to rugby union or the new-found threat of the AFL.

You will also see fewer players leave the NRL during their prime to make the switch to England.

This can only be better for our competition.

Junior development is another area we need to improve.

The AFL has pumped huge amounts of money into grassroots, setting up talent identification programs from a young age and taking players who possibly could have excelled in rugby league.

We also need to raise the minimum wage for players.

Currently, there are some who are on as little as $10,000 plus match payments.

I still believe you have to earn your stripes, and you don't want to reward people for being in a second-tier competition.

But if a player is required to train full-time, he needs to receive a sufficient income to support that.

While he's not with the NRL anymore, David Gallop should get a lot of the credit from the game being able to secure the breakthrough broadcast deal that it has.

In his decade in the top job, Gallop had to combat some serious off-field issues in the game as well as the battle between the codes.

He has led it in the right direction to where it is now and I'm sure he'll do great things as the chief executive of Football Federation Australia.

State of Origin is the jewel in the crown of the broadcast rights, and it will be just as strong with Laurie Daley in charge of NSW.

Laurie has worked closely with Ricky Stuart in the past few years, and I'm expecting the Blues to be just as tough to beat next year.

A closely-fought and passionate Origin series is vital to rugby league giving broadcasters what they want - an exciting, physical game which captivates viewers across the country.


And that's exactly what we intend to deliver.

David Shillington plays prop for the Canberra Raiders