NRL moves to stop players breaking contracts to chase more money



NRL moves to stop players breaking contracts to chase more money

FOR months Jason Saab sat at home refusing to take calls from the Dragons, who still paid his wage every month, if it matters.

His manager, acting as a buffer, pleaded for the club to leave him alone so he could sort out his issues, and here is where it gets a little delicate.

At the very least Saab’s silence was happening at the same time he was being shopped to rival clubs for what turned out to be a significant contract upgrade.

That he still had two more years at St George Illawarra, who were still paying his wages while he refused to answer the phone, seemed irrelevant in the end.

This is the way business is increasingly being done in the NRL.

The Dragons ultimately had no choice but to release him. For one, Saab was refusing to go to training.

Another Sydney club revealed yesterday Saab was shopped its way for figures approaching $900,000 over three years.

Given Saab was earning close to the minimum wage at the Dragons, about $120,000 a season, and with seven NRL games to his name, he was seeking almost a 300 per cent increase in salary.

Publicly, he claimed it was a mental welfare issue, citing the stress of the long drive to Wollongong.

Privately, at the very least, it was a profitable home vacation. Saab signed with Manly last week.

Finally, though, it appears the NRL has had enough.

One of rugby league’s irritations, players breaking contracts for more money, is set to end with a simple piece of logical thinking.

The solution so easy you wonder why it did not come into place earlier, until you remind yourself of the previous administration and mournfully shake your head.

The ARL Commission will meet today and consider a new rule forbidding players who break a contract from s i g n i n g or more money at a rival club.

So Saab, for example, could join Manly for all the reasons he stated to leave the Dragons

— but he would have to remain on the money the Dragons would have paid him for the next two seasons.

It will immediately remove the incentive for players to seek a release for the simple reason of making more money elsewhere, which is happening at an increasing rate in the game.

The rule is expected to sort out those who want to leave a club for legitimate personal reasons and those who are merely going for a pay rise.

This increase in players breaking contracts has accelerated player inflation in the game and driven clubs to a constant state of cannibalising each other.

And fans simply hate it, believing it is driven by greed.

Managers, and perhaps the richer clubs, will argue the new rule is a restraint of trade.

Y e contracts ar

contracts the world over. You cannot sell a house and, realising you sold it too cheap, then refuse to let the new owners in the door while you shop around for a bigger price. Yet that is effectively what some managers are forcing their players, some unwittingly, to do now.

And the manager, who with some irony negotiated and recommended the deal he now urges his client to break, not only pays no price but, in fact, gets a pay rise on commission for the upgraded deal.

As the new Warriors coach Nathan Brown said earlier this year on NRL360: “You can’t do a good deal anymore.”

Brown said part of the art of managing the salary cap is signing a player for $300,000 and trying to get $400,000 of value out of him.

Now, he said, the moment a player begins playing well he is back arguing for an upgrade or, more frequently, being shopped around for a bigger deal at rival clubs.

The moment a bigger deal is landed the player asks to be released, usually citing “family reasons”.

Not that Brown can complain too much.

Shortly after signing at the Warriors the club, realising it needed a tough middle forward, put an offer to Addin Fonua-Blake even though he still had two seasons left at Manly.

On cue, Fonua-Blake claimed “family reasons” and was granted a release.

The Sea Eagles tried to go down this road once before when Blake Green was offered a significant upgrade at the Warriors with a season still left at Manly.

The Sea Eagles needed only a few weeks watching him kick stones around at training to realise the cause was lost and Green was gone. Manly was too smart this time around, though.

The Tigers are convinced that Fonua-Blake was released at Manly only on the condition his manager found an adequate replacement.

Soon after, it was reported Josh Aloiai was unhappy at the Tigers and seeking a release. Lo and behold, Manly emerged as a viable option.

It might be only a coincidence Aloiai is managed by the same agent as Fonua-Blake.

Daily Telegraph | Digital Edition (


This is exactly what I said should happen in another thread.


I don’t get it.

Refuse to go to training and I refuse to put your wage in your account every fortnight.

Not sure the story adds up.


About fucken time I say!!

They want to be treated like professional athletes then follow the contract THEY signed…

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They should have had it like before when it was July 1st .

Players that are off contract next year can’t negotiate until then.

Having players sign contracts more than a year in advance and 16 moths before they play a premiership game for their new club is ridiculous.
The same knuckleheads that are whining now were the same knuckleheads who were whining before despite being warned that this shit would happen.
Managers are also a massive problem.
The NRL should piss the accredited thing off. It’s a bit like a cartel when really anyone should be able to do the deal.
I would have thought by the year 2020 that we would have had almost all players managing themselves or trusted family members or Friends helping with negotiations.

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I agree with you. The current rules are ridiculous. Feels like years ago we actually signed Jai Arrow.

However the players association will fight hard to keep the current rules as it benefits the players the most

I remember when the rules were much like they are now, from memory I think Adam Muir signed with North Sydney about 12-18 months before playing for them back in 1998. So things obviously changed to June 30 from then but since then they’ve gone back

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Could the players argue that it would be a restraint of trade, like they did with the draft?

Ok, so Saab goes to Manly anyway. Manly show $120k as his salary on their cap, then through paper bags & TPA’s he earns another say $200k that he couldn’t get at the Merge. How does the plan solve anything? Am I missing something?


In that case it’s straight out cheating…lodging a contract with the NRL then paying over that amount would constitute a breach of the salary cap, pure and simple.
As to whether that happens undetected is another subject altogether.

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The fight for NRL loyalty is far from straightforward


BRINGING back more loyalty into rugby league may sound like a tremendous idea in principle.

But the push to stop players breaking contracts so they can take up more lucrative offers at rival clubs appears to be on a collision course with the Rugby League Players’ Association.

The issue came to a head at Wednesday’s ARL Commission meeting when chief executive Andrew Abdo was charged with coming up with a solution to stop the rot.

But while ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys is leading the fight for fed up fans who have had a gutful of the lack of integrity surrounding contracts, the players’ union see it as a clear restraint of trade. Not only that, the other problem for the NRL is clubs are equally at fault of pushing out contracted players when it suits their purposes.

But the growing lack of faith among fans hasn’t been helped by a series of controversial deals in recent months, the latest highlighted by Jason Saab’s switch from St George Illawarra to Manly.

While Saab sought a release for mental welfare issues, it is also speculated he will get a significant salary increase after being on close to minimum NRL wage at the Dragons. It’s been suggested that the easy way to stop it is by making a player such as Saab get paid the same at his new club if he does walk out on a contract early.

The Daily Telegraph ran an online poll on Wednesday asking fans if players and clubs should be forced to honour the full period of any contract and a massive 92 per cent voted in favour.

But the players could counter the flip side to the Saab situation is seeing a long serving player like Josh Mansour pushed out of Penrith with time to run on his contract so the club can keep young gun Charlie Staines.

“It is clearly a priority,” Abdo said. “We don’t know what the answer is yet but we are certainly going to look at it and see what we can get done.

“We are going to look at a range of ways we can improve that situation and then we will have to work with the RLPA and others on how we implement those reforms.”

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Can’t imagine it could be argued to be a restraint of trade if the player has a current and valid contract. If players want to break the contract for family or other compasionate reasons then money is not the issue. Quite justifiably the player shouldn’t benefit from breaking a contract by signing another for more money.
That said, introducing this kind of rule does open the door for paper bag deals, not that they don’t happen now.

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