IT'S time we had a close look at just how the increase in the salary cap has affected the competitive parity of the NRL, which has been its biggest strength since 1998.
We've had nine premiers in 15 years but results like Monday night's 50-0 win by Sydney Roosters over Parramatta at least suggest that this year – for whatever reason – we have a new underclass.
The salary cap has gone up from $4.4 million to $5.85 million but that includes a big hike in the marquee player allowance, from $300,000 to $550,000.
I recently wrote a feature on this and the conclusions I drew from talking to a variety of agents and football managers was that more good players are staying where they are and mid-range players are demanding big sums to move.
This may be having the effect of shoring up the most powerful teams and severely stretching the resources of the clubs trying to catch up.
Roosters football manager Peter O'Sullivan said: “Your $240,000 players are going to be asking for $400,000 and if you don't give it to them, they WILL leave.
“But if clubs do give it to them, they are going to be stuffed because all their cap will be spent at the top and middle of their squad with nothing at the bottom.”
Sure, the players deserved their cut of the $1.025 billion TV deal. But I wonder how much work was done on the impact of the cap increase on competitive parity.
Also, we're not going to give the strugglers time to catch up. The cap will keep going up, to $7 million in 2017. Could the gap between haves and have-nots increase at a commensurate pace?
We don't want to get to the point where we see scorelines like those in England on Monday – 84-6 and 64-6.
League needs stand alone international date
SOMEONE should congratulate the NRL for organising the Samoa-Tonga Test at Penrith on April 20.
The clubs should also be congratulated for releasing players for the game without too many gripes.
I am told next year the match will involve two different nations – say, the Cook Islands and Fiji. The more of these internationals that take place, the fewer players will feel compelled to make themselves eligible for Australia or New Zealand instead.
We should all be aiming for a co-ordinated international weekend on which club football goes into recess everywhere and players fly around the world to play Test matches.
Hopefully, the game at Penrith means we have taken a positive step in that direction.
Egg on face over Super League Easter round
SURELY the days are numbered of two entire Super League rounds over Easter.
For Rovers to win the Hull Derby and then three days later concede 84 points at home to Wigan is bordering on tragic.
Monday's games made a mockery of those on Thursday and Friday and there is the added disadvantage of there being no games at all on Saturday and Sunday.
I understand the commercial imperative at work but can someone add up how much profit was made by having a second round of matches played, when you take out match day expenses?
Discord is willing to wager it's not enough to justify the damage to the game's brand and the physical toll on players.
I WAS interested today to read an item by my furry friend The Mole about Penrith prop Tim Grant firing up over being dropped to the bench on Sunday.
I was supposed to interview Grant – an intelligent and eloquent fellow – but he looked stressed as he apologetically declined on the way out of the Panthers' sheds.
JUST the one comment last week and Joe The Expat said he didn't like better odds and cross promotion of other programmes in his footy coverage. I'm sure plenty of people agree with you, Joe.