Tackling the big boys
By GREG WHITE
ONE VB Group 2 club has secured the backing of Country Rugby League as they prepare to take on the NRL for what they believe is their rightful share of Development Fees.
After the non payment of development fees by NRL clubs was revealed yesterday by the Coffs Coast Advocate, local officials have grown weary of being cut out of a compensation scheme designed to encourage country clubs to groom talent for bigger things, Port Macquarie Sharks have advised they will soon be fighting a war on three fronts to claim their entitlements.
Oxley Regional Manager and CRL representative Scott Bone said the competition heavyweights had already lodged a claim following the first grade debut by Jacob Selmes with Cronulla Sharks.
But they will also claim for diminutive halfback Scott Dureau who made a spectacular entry into the big time with Newcastle last weekend and New Zealand Warriors player Ryan Shortland who has already spent a season with Melbourne Storm.
"The case with Selmes is very strong but they may have problems getting a trail of evidence with the other two," Bone said.
"One of the problems is instead of the NRL clubs following a straight process for compensation, all sorts of schemes are used to bend the rules while most of the onus for record-keeping is left with the country clubs.
"Their volunteers have enough to do and it's not fair they should be reminding the city clubs of their responsibilities, sometimes years after the player has left the club."
In the case of Shortland, a search of Coffs Coast Advocate archives delivered irrefutable proof of the player's Group 2 activities in the 2003 season.
Using current figures (later than 2003), his selection for North Coast Under-18s that year should have netted the Sharks a share of (up to) $4000 in Development Fees upon his transfer to the Melbourne Storm and a Debut Fee (presently $2500) when making his initial first grade appearance in Round Two last year.
A percentage of the fee would also have been dispensed to Shortland's junior club, Coogee Wombats.
But the Storm's tactic of signing players to 'feeder' clubs rather than directly in this case Brisbane Norths has muddied the waters, as was the case with Origin and Australian Test player, Greg Inglis, where originating clubs Bowraville and Macksville missed out on rightful and fair distribution in favour of a Storm feeder club.
Sharks' Football Operations Manager Les Murphy said not only was the unchallenged plundering of country talent bringing the game to its knees but the lengths to which NRL clubs go to avoid paying fees had reached an appalling stage.
"It's a scam, the bastards should hang their heads in shame," he said angrily.
"We have to go right back to Jarrod McCracken in 1991 for the last time we were paid our entitlements without somebody trying to rob us blind.
"Blokes like Brett Firman, Daniel Dumas and a heap I can name, we were ripped off by the city clubs and the bad part is they have no shame doing it whatsoever."
Murphy revealed the once rock-solid relationship with Cronulla was on shaky ground due to the dispute over development fees for Selmes and an agreement with Gold Coast is also causing concern.
"It appears we have to watch our backs with the Titans after we heard on the grapevine they've taken Ben Read and Tyrone Nelson out of the Academy program," he said.
"They were supposed to let us know in advance of any changes to players but that agreement seems to have been torn up with us being the last to know.
"God knows what Souths have planned as so far there's a straight refusal to explain what they are up to and I suspect it's because they intend to drain us dry, promise the world and give nothing in return."