The future of NRL age-grade contracting of young players…

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Opinion:

by Peter Petterson

Should there be an age limit for contracting young players in NRL age groups? In previous years there has been very generous provisions in contracts for young players, including New Zealanders or Kiwi based players. Some players have had educational provisions included with living expenses. While these players mostly  perform onfield up to the expected and required standards, some  have let their off-field  standards deteriorate to some degree  – having alcohol related or influenced behavioural problems – fighting and assaults, often outside bars and clubs etc.

Many New Zealand players do not have their families or close relations to live with or influence and monitor their off-field behaviour. Many very young Kiwi lads are often influenced by their older team-mates after their games. Perhaps young players should not be allowed to be contracted without direct parental or older relative influence. In most cases schooling only lasts a couple of years and players are then required by the NRL  to continue with some form of education or work involvement. Perhaps players under the age of 17 years should not be allowed to be formally contracted, but be allowed to play SG Ball (Under 18 years) competition on an annual  arrangement with clubs.

I would briefly mention two New Zealand players: One a highly talented player contracted at the age of 14 years in New Zealand on a long-term contact with generous living expenses and school costs. He became involved in off field incidents, and  half way through his contract was  released to another club. However this player’s indiscretions were minor compared to the behaviour of some older players around the NRL, who certainly don’t set good examples to younger players.

The second Kiwi player has been contracted for three seasons and will receive educational and training support. However, his family will have to pick up the tab for his living expenses in Sydney. I’m not sure whether any family members will be present in Australia. Because of the necessity of having to provide living expenses this family will have a closer involvement with their family member.

The Under 20 NYC competition will be disbanded by about 2017 and clubs will then enter teams  in a NSW/ Queensland  Cup-type of competition with winners playing off in a Grand Final. It is expected that clubs will not be contracting young players as they do now. Some form of player pool will most likely occur with clubs having to draw players from the pool to supplement a limited squad. The NRL will make the new concept available to clubs after this season.

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