Show us the money
by GREG WHITE
COFFS Harbour Rugby League Club will investigate their eligibility to receive Development Fees for home grown players including Michael Spence and Brynjar Ragnarsson after both recently became high-profile NRL recruits.
The Comets have been inspired by revelations this week in the Coffs Coast Advocate that a ground swell of disgust is growing in Country Rugby League areas at the methods the city clubs are using to dodge their dues to country clubs producing talented players in bulk.
Oxley Regional Manager Scott Bone will be asked to look at the background to Spence's move to the Broncos while Ragnarsson's ties with both Brisbane and more recently Cronulla, will be checked over.
"I've only been in the job a couple of weeks and am still being brought up to date but we intend to take this up with Country Rugby League," president David Velt said.
"If fees are due that will benefit the entire club, especially the juniors, and the efforts to help kids better themselves through the game, then we're duty bound to investigate this fully."
Former president Ian Trengove said no previous application for Development Fees for the players had been made but the process would begin immediately.
"The NRL clubs stuff you around and try to confuse you and it's hard to know what to do," he said.
"Often the process gets put to one side because we have only a handful of people trying to do too many jobs and I guess the big boys trade on this.
"But I reckon we have grounds and a bit of history to support us as one of the really good things (former secretary) Jeff Lansley did was to set up a file on every player and if we need proof Brynjar and Michael had a history with the club, it should be in there." While there's no dispute as to their present ties, the picture becomes murky as to whether attempts were made by the Broncos to short circuit the system by signing the players to 'feeder' clubs, thereby keeping the Fees 'in house.' "Young Spency may have gone to Redcliffe and Brynjar started with one of the other Queensland Cup teams," Trengove said.
"I'll be annoyed if they've got under our necks and swiped money when it should be directed into developing more Coffs juniors."
The Fees due are far from trivial.
On the current schedule the Comets are entitled to a $2500 Debut Fee from Cronulla should Ragnarsson be picked in first grade and possibly should have received $4000 from the transfer to the Broncos as a Divisional Under-18 representative.
As a Country representative, Spence's transfer should have earned a Development Fee of $5500 on transfer, plus the !$3000 should he crack the top grade.
"To the big clubs that may not sound like much but to us blokes in the bush, that's a hell of a lot to miss out on, particularly if the system was set up in the first place to help us survive and we've got blokes up there thinking up every trick in the book to take it off us," Trengove added.
Oxley's Scott Bone said the switch to computerised transfers will end many of the tricks played by NRL clubs.
"For the first time every player will have a documented record from their first junior game to the day they retire," he said.
"It will take time to roll out the system and there are some gaps because players taken by the NRL in the last couple of years are only now starting to come up to first grade and their junior clubs have in some cases, overlooked their whereabouts.
"But I bet some of these blokes will already be looking for loopholes so they can cheat country clubs out of what is rightfully theirs and we'll have to stay awake."