$7 million NRL salary cap pool makes up for pressure
WE have seemingly been bombarded of late about the plight of the modern-day NRL player, and the pressure and stress with which they have to deal. And clearly, some are finding the strain difficult.
But is that pressure any greater than yesteryear? Did our stars of 50 years ago not also feel a searing spotlight on them, asking them to perform each and every winter weekend? And were they recompensed comparatively?
News this week that the ARL Commission and the Rugby League Players' Association have finally signed the code's long-awaited collective bargaining agreement means that in 2017 the NRL salary cap will be pegged at $7 million, with the top 25 players at each club splitting $6.2 million.
If divided evenly, that equates to $248,000 a season for each player.
But obviously the divide will not be even. Some - like Greg Inglis if he's still playing in four years - will no doubt be earning in excess of $1 million, with the lowest paid of the 25 on a minimum wage of $85,000.
In anyone's language, and irrespective of the kind of work we do, few would scoff at those amounts. Agreed, it's tough, physical work where performance and scrutiny is paramount. But it is also rewarding.
For instance, under this new agreement, State of Origin players will earn $30,000 a game and internationals $40,000 a Test match. Members of the winning Four Nations team at the end of the year will each be paid $50,000.
So again giving Greg Inglis as the example, over and above his salary at the Rabbitohs this season, he can conceivably earn an additional $180,000 in fees for rep appearances plus - as a marquee player at his club - extras in cash and kind.
And while Immortal Johnny Raper preferred not to reveal what he earned as a player back in the 60s, he told me this week the pressure he felt was from the huge crowds that turned out each weekend to watch the mighty St George play. His reward, while not material, was being a member of a magnificent team.
Pressure, I suppose, comes in different forms.
HANDS up those who thought the venture by Russell Crowe in to rugby league, via the Rabbitohs, was not much more than a publicity stunt. My hand is raised.
But Crowe has been a revelation, and the Rabbitohs have flourished since he took the reins back in 2006.
Obviously the reincarnation of the club known as the pride of the league is not all down to Crowe.
New coach Michael Maguire has been outstanding, Greg Inglis magnificent, the Burgess brothers brilliant and a host of others just fabulous support acts.
But having the Academy Award winner in their corner has been a sure-fire attraction for players, fans and sponsors.
Just this week his big mate James Packer - a lifelong Roosters supporter - agreed to sponsor the Rabbitohs for three years from next season through his Crown Casino group.
The deal is worth $3 million and comes less than a week after rival The Star Casino announced it would be ending its sponsorship with the Rabbitohs.
That's known as having friends in high places.
FOLLOWING a recent spate of poor rulings on forward passes, calls for the video referee to rule on them have increased.
But commonsense tells us that just won't work. Unless cameras are strategically placed at reasonably close intervals, the angle will still be deceptive. And besides, the time chewed up in reviewing every iffy pass makes this examination unrealistic.
No-one is in a better position to judge on forward passes than the on-field referees. Not only is one of them generally in line with the play, but because of their experience they have a feel for things out in the middle.
One of the worst introductions in recent times has been the involvement of the touch judges in calling forward passes.
And conversely, because their chief responsibility is to watch back play, they have little feel for the flow of the game.
Too many poor decisions are being made on forward passes, and the majority of those rulings are coming from the touch judges. In this particular area of the game, the referees don't need their help.