The list of the NRL's top 100 players shows a significant gap between the top and bottom sides.
The list of the NRL's top 100 players shows a significant gap between the top and bottom sides.

Monday Buzz: Proof the NRL’s salary cap isn’t working

The NRL salary cap is not working.

This list of arguably the top 100 players in the competition shows a significant gap between the top and bottom sides.

It demonstrates the premiership heavyweights have up to four times more elite stars than many of their struggling rivals and that the talent pool is lopsided, even with all teams spending $9.5 million.

The NRL will reasonably argue there have been seven different ­premiers in the past 10 years, that success goes in cycles, and that no sporting competition will ever have ­completely level rosters.

However, the New Zealand Warriors, the Gold Coast Titans and the Canterbury Bulldogs are clearly off the pace, with a combined eight players in the top 100. It is hard to believe they spend the same amount as the glamour clubs.

The Penrith Panthers and the Newcastle Knights have only four top players each.

 

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Warriors recruitment chief Peter O'Sullivan has been in the NRL for 25 years and knows the business ­better than most. He has offered huge money to Matt Lodge, David Fifita and other big names in recent times with no results.

"They haven't needed to move to get the bigger dollars," O'Sullivan said.

"We have to develop them. We have to buy undervalued players and local kids and turn them into top 100 players.

"We are confident we are heading in the right direction."

At the other end of the scale, ­premiers the Sydney Roosters still have the most elite players along with the Melbourne Storm, despite the retirement of Cooper Cronk and the departure of Latrell Mitchell.

The Canberra Raiders and the South Sydney Rabbitohs are the next strongest in the top 100.

It highlights the importance of having a coach who can attract ­players, or a smart one like Ricky Stuart who made a raid on Great Britain's best talent to build his ­magnificent Raiders roster.

There are three coaching standouts in recruitment - Trent Robinson, Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bennett. Players will accept less to join their clubs because of their track records.

You then look at the Wests Tigers and coach Michael Maguire who, until signing the unwanted Joey Leilua last week, couldn't attract a decent player.

Mitchell rejected Maguire's $4 million offer over four years to ­accept an extraordinary $3.3 million less - a $700,000 one-season deal at the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

 

Latrell Mitchell knocked back a big Wests Tigers offer to join the Rabbitohs. Picture: Dylan Robinson
Latrell Mitchell knocked back a big Wests Tigers offer to join the Rabbitohs. Picture: Dylan Robinson

 

Boom forward Ryan Matterson broke his contract and walked out on the Tigers because he didn't want to play under the 2014 premiership-winning coach. So too did powerful centre Esan Marsters.

Titans forward Jai Arrow took $200,000 a season less than he could have earned at the Wests Tigers to join the Rabbitohs. It's said Maguire's punishing approach at training is a turn-off for potential recruits.

Penrith's Ivan Cleary is another who has struggled to attract top ­talent. He left the Wests Tigers in a terrible mess by paying way over the top for the likes of Josh Reynolds, Russell Packer and Ben Matulino.

He has also released top 100 ­players Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Waqa Blake and Reagan Campbell-Gillard from the Panthers.

Back-to-back premiers the Roosters are often accused of rorting the salary cap. Yet they rarely get into bidding wars to keep players.

Mitchell was offered $800,000 a year for two seasons but knocked it back. They withdrew the offer.

They let Roger Tuivasa-Sheck go in 2016 because they refused to match the Warriors offer. The same with James Maloney, who was ­released in 2015.

It is a fact that elite players will accept less to play under Robinson, who has won three premierships in seven years.

 

The Roosters refused to match the Warriors’ offer for Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Picture: Getty Images
The Roosters refused to match the Warriors’ offer for Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Picture: Getty Images

 

Even youngsters like boom 17-year-old halfback Sam Walker will take less to play at Moore Park, for the opportunity to learn from the three-time premiership coach. He could have got $200,000 more at Belmore.

At the Roosters you are also ­almost guaranteed to play finals football and it increases your ­chances of playing State of Origin or Test football and getting the bonuses that go with it.

At the same time, the weaker clubs often have to pay overs to sign the bigger names - and that weakens the rest of the roster.

The Knights have a ''big three'' - Mitchell Pearce, Kalyn Ponga and Dave Klemmer - but have struggled to build a competitive roster around them because the funds have not been available.

That might change this year with the appointment of the highly ­regarded coach Adam O'Brien, ­although he will have basically the same roster that Nathan Brown failed with.

At least he's come out of the Storm and Roosters systems - they are the best in the business.

 

NRL'S TOP 100 PLAYERS

 

Brisbane Broncos (7): David Fifita, Payne Haas, Matt Lodge, Anthony Milford, Corey Oates, Tevita Pangai, Kotoni Staggs

Canberra Raiders (9): John Bateman, Nick Cotric, Jarrod Croker, Josh Hodgson, Josh Papalii, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Elliott Whithead, Jack Wighton, Joseph Tapine

Canterbury Bulldogs (3): Will Hopoate, Josh Jackson, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak

Cronulla Sharks (6): Wade Graham, Andrew Fifita, Matt Moylan, Shaun Johnson, Bronson Xerri, Chad Townsend

Gold Coast Titans (3): Jai Arrow, Jarrod Wallace, Alexander Brimson

Manly Sea Eagles (7): Daly Cherry-Evans, Addin Fonua-Blake, Curtis Sironen, Marty Taupau, Jake Trbojevic, Tom Trbojevic, Dylan Walker

 

Daly Cherry-Evans of the Manly Sea Eagles. Picture: AAP
Daly Cherry-Evans of the Manly Sea Eagles. Picture: AAP

 

Melbourne Storm (11): Josh Addo-Carr, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Jesse Bromwich, Kenny Bromwich, Dale Finucane, Felise Kaufusi, Ryan Papenhuyzen,

Cameron Munster, Brandon Smith, Cameron Smith, Suliasi Vunivalu

Newcastle Knights (4): Dave Klemmer, Mitchell Pearce, Kalyn Ponga, Daniel Saifiti

North Queensland Cowboys (5): Valentine Holmes, Kyle Feldt, Josh McGuire, Michael Morgan, Jason Taumalolo

Parramatta Eels (9): Waqa Blake, Dylan Brown, Nathan Brown, Blake Ferguson, Clint Gutherson, Mitchell Moses, Maika Sivo, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Ryan Matterson

Penrith Panthers (4): Nathan Cleary, James Fisher-Harris, Viliame Kikau, James Tamou

 

Penrith’s Nathan Cleary. Picture: AAP
Penrith’s Nathan Cleary. Picture: AAP

 

St George-Illawarra Dragons (6): Tyson Frizell, James Graham, Ben Hunt, Tariq Sims, Paul Vaughan, Cameron McInnes

South Sydney Rabbitohs (8): Tom Burgess, Damien Cook, Dane Gagai, Latrell Mitchell, Cameron Murray, Adam Reynolds, James Roberts, Cody Walker

Sydney Roosters (11): Boyd Cordner, Angus Crichton, Jake Friend, Luke Keary, Joseph Manu, Brett Morris, Victor Radley, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, James Tedesco, Daniel Tupou, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves

New Zealand Warriors (2): Blake Green, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

Wests Tigers (5): Luke Brooks, Benji Marshall, Moses Mbye, Joey Leilua, Adam Doueihi



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