NRL news 2023 | Andrew Johns, Phil Gould tee off over ‘not fair’ poaching, salary cap system
Calls are growing louder for an overhaul of the NRL‘s salary cap system after the Panthers lost yet another player to a rival club with more salary cap room.
Spencer Leniu this week became the latest to announce he will leave the club, with reports indicating the gun former Panthers junior will move east and join the Roosters. Stephen Crichton will also join the Bulldogs next season.
For the 2023 season, the Panthers lost Api Koroisau and Charlie Staines to the Tigers, Isaiah Katoa, Robert Jennings and Sean O’Sullivan to the Dolphins, Viliame Kikau to the Bulldogs and J’maine Hopgood to the Eels.
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Bulldogs star Matt Burton was also a product of the Panthers system, which came from a decade of investment in junior footy in regional NSW.
Speaking on Wide World of Sports’ Freddy and the Eighth, Andrew Johns branded the poaching practice “totally not fair”, and said clubs with a strong development pathway should be compensated when those players move on.
“There’s no reward really for producing your own players – you finally get them to the top grade and they play there for two or three years and then other clubs pick him up,” he said.
He suggested a transfer fee might be a solution.
Speaking on Wide World of Sports’ Six Tackles with Gus podcast, Phil Gould said the salary cap under its current guise “punishes success”.
“It gives no incentive for development,” he said.
“It’s sad the Panthers are going to lose a lot of those homegrown developed players … [but] they’re not the first club to have this happen to them.”
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Leniu averaged only about 25 minutes of game time coming off the bench last season for the Panthers. Gould said he was likely on the move to find more game time and a higher pay cheque, neither of which Penrith could guarantee.
“At most other clubs in the competition, Spencer Leniu is getting starting time and getting bigger minutes,” Gould said.
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“He can’t be paid top front-rower money because they’ve got top front rowers, they’ve got top lock forwards. So if he wants to go and earn beyond that, or find a club where he can get a starting role … then unfortunately he had to move.
“The salary cap pressure the Panthers are feeling is because there has been a lack of development in the majority of the other clubs, when they don’t have a development system where players are coming through.
“What do they do when they’re short of a player or they want to improve their lot? They’ve got to go and buy a player. Where do you go and buy? Off the team that’s performing the best.”
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Gould said it was time league bosses mandated investment in junior pathways.
“The game has never really had a strategy, nor has it had any obligation on clubs [to invest],” he said.
“When you sign your NRL licence to play in the NRL competition, and you put your hand out for all those broadcast dollars all the clubs are now getting, it should come with obligations [to invest] into the future of the game and the future of your own club, and not just leaving it up to a handful of clubs to do it.
“They can’t all do it as big as Panthers, but they should all be able to do something.”
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